Trudeau to apologize for handling of Inuit who died during TB treatment

Henrietta Strickland
March 10, 2019

The stop was an unexpected break for the embattled Trudeau, who was en route to Iqaluit to apologize for abuses suffered by Inuit during tuberculosis treatment, when snow and wind forced his plane to divert to 5 Wing Goose Bay.

He was to apologize for how past governments mistreated Inuit who went south for tuberculosis care in the middle of the last century, some of whom died and were buried rather than being returned to their families.

The prime minister also used the occasion to announce the launch of a database for Inuit families to use to locate the graves of ancestors who were separated from their relatives during this period.

Eetoolook said the apology and database will bring closure to many Inuit. "We are sorry for forcing you from your families, for not showing you the respect and care you deserved". She noted that many Inuit families to this day still don't know what happened to their relatives who were transferred south. "We are sorry for the colonial mindset that drove the federal government's actions". "We are sorry for breaking what is most precious, the love of a home", he said.

The apology has been in the works for the better part of two years, since Trudeau signed an Inuit-Crown partnership agreement in 2017. "Some of the (burial grounds) will be hard to find".

"We've heard a lot about families that heard that their loved one passed away, or getting a telegram of their loved one passing away, but there was no details about where their loved one was buried, if there was a funeral service", said Jeannie arreak-Kullualik, the chief operating officer for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

During this time Inuit people were transported to southern Canada for tuberculosis treatment, and were often placed in health care systems for years where they were unfamiliar with the languages, food, and culture.

But the report said progress has been made in tracing all cases of infectious TB, screening of school age children, faster diagnosis and earlier treatments.

During his press conference on Friday, Trudeau called the treatment of Inuit in the North by past governments a "shameful" chapter in Canadian history.

"The government has said it wants to eliminate TB by 2030", Eetoolook said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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