December 5, 2006 – Pita Aatami, President of the Makivvik and Thomasie Alikatuktuk, President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association are disappointed but not surprised that the RCMP self-investigation into the slaughter of sled dogs from 1950 to 1970 does not reflect the truth. The RCMP report submitted to Parliament on November 29, 2006 is biased, flawed and incomplete.
“How can the RCMP legitimately investigate themselves? The RCMP conclude that there was no organized killing of Inuit sled dogs. From Kuujjuarapik to the High Arctic, there is clear evidence the RCMP and other persons in authority killed Inuit sled dogs systematically and determinedly,” said Pita Aatami. “to state otherwise is to say that Inuit Elders who live thousands of miles from each other have conspired to lie.”
The RCMP stated that sled dogs were killed because they were disease-ridden. However, Inuit who depended on their working dog teams for their survival and well-being were used to managing the health of their dogs, understood about diseases that could affect dogs and dealt with sick dogs proactively.
The RCMP Report also alludes to dogs being shot because of starvation. While times of starvation did happen, Inuit testimony does not corroborate that the majority of the dogs were lacking food. If dogs were hungry, it would have been illogical to extinguish the main means of transportation by which Inuit could obtain food
“The slaughter of the sled dogs caused physical and emotional hardship that endangered the very survival of Inuit who lost their dogs. It scarred us and our families. What the RCMP claim as truth is not the truth that Inuit lived. I know this because I have seen it with my own eyes.”, said Mr. Alikatuktuk.
The RCMP allude to an unwarranted number of dogs. This is contradicted by the evidence of Inuit owners of sled dogs who knew for centuries how to manage the number of sled dogs and ensure that dogs were properly cared for. The RCMP report notes that the sled dogs were primitive, aggressive and dangerous. They did not hesitate to shoot loose dogs. However, Inuit have stated that dogs were shot even when harnessed to a sled while their owners were at a trading post obtaining essential supplies, leaving their owners stranded without any means of returning to their families. In the communities, some dogs were shot under their owners’ homes. Many dogs were shot even when tethered.
The RCMP blamed Makivvik and the QIA for the low number of interviews they were able to obtain with Inuit Elders. “The RCMP under-estimate the level of distrust that remains from the colonial period, and the bitterness resulting from the dog slaughters. They cannot blame the Elders and our organizations for not trusting a process that was not independent”, said Thomasie Alikatuktuk.
It is very unfortunate that the government ordered an RCMP investigation instead of an independent investigation into the slaughter, as was originally recommended by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in March 2005. “The RCMP report worsens the cultural divide and bitterness caused by the killing of the Inuit sled dogs”, said Mr. Aatami.
To set the historical record straight, QIA and Makivvik will be sponsoring a truth commission.
Qikiqtani Inuit Association