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NNSL Photo/graphic

The RCMP has issued a 771-page report that denies any police or government-sponsored cull of sled dogs in Nunavut during the 1950s and 1970s. The RCMP says that dogs were only killed as health and safety reasons warranted. - NNSL file photo

Qikiqtani 'not satisfied' with dog slaughter report

Chris Windeyer
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 04/06) - If Inuit elders in Nunavut and Nunavik thought the RCMP pursued an organized slaughter of sled dogs after 1950, they were wrong, according to the Mounties' final report on the matter, tabled in the House of Commons Thursday.
NNSL Photo/graphic

-No evidence was found of any policy decision to conduct a mass cull or killing of sled dogs, either as internal RCMP policy or from the government.

-There are no records to account for shipments of RCMP ammunition in the necessary quantities to the Eastern Arctic to support the allegations of a systematic cull of 20,000 sled dogs, which is the number cited in the allegations.

-The RCMP did shoot stray and loose dogs, in accordance with the law, as well as starving and sick dogs that posed a public health or safety hazard. In addition, dogs were destroyed when the owner requested that the dog(s) be put down.

-The review team was unable to validate the exact number of Inuit sled dogs that died in the time period in question, whether by disease, starvation, shooting, or other causes. The Edmonton Journal reported that Professor Frank Tester, who conducted extensive research on the subject of Inuit relocations and government policies, said that given the Canadian Inuit population at the time, the total number of dogs in the Eastern Arctic could not have been higher than 10,000.

-Source: Final Report: RCMP Review of Allegations Concerning Inuit Sled Dogs

The report, submitted in Ottawa by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, concludes that the RCMP killed some dogs to prevent the spread of disease and to get rid of stray animals, but not systematically.

"The review did not uncover any evidence to support the allegations of an organized mass slaughter of Inuit sled dogs by RCMP members in Nunavik and Nunavut between 1950 and 1970," the report states.

Day's version is drawn from an exhaustive 771-page report that was produced using 42,000 pages of public documents and dozens of interviews.

Many Inuit elders believe the Mounties intentionally tried to exterminate sled dogs to force Inuit from the land and into organized settlement.

Staff Sgt. Phil Campbell, the principal reviewer of the larger report, said those elders rightly remember the killing of sled dogs, but are mistaken about the significance.

"I don't think that our internal findings are inconsistent with the oral histories of the elders," Campbell said from Ottawa. "I think that many of them were young at the time and they saw dogs put down for reasons of public safety or because the animals were diseased, or healthy animals put down to prevent the spread of an epidemic outbreak."

Campbell gave the example of canine hepatitis, which lies dormant for several days and can infect an entire dog team. To control the virus, Mounties would destroy the entire team and maybe not adequately explain why to the animals' Inuit owners.

"There may have been a lack of communication between the police and the Inuit as to why dogs were being destroyed," he said.

But Qikiqtani Inuit Association president Thomasie Alikatuktuk, said he isn't satisfied with the report.

"What the RCMP are saying is that Inuit couldn't handle their dogs right," Alikatuktuk said in an interview. "That's not true."

He said his father and brother kept dogs in the 1960s and took good care of them, even teaching the animals how to sniff out caribou and seal.

Qikiqtani executive director Terry Audla shares Alikatuktuk's skepticism, though he is quick to point out that Inuit and the RCMP work together much better than they once did.

"We're not surprised by the final report of the RCMP," he said, noting the document quotes one Mountie as admitting that he killed 250 dogs in one day. "Call it what it is. A slaughter is a slaughter is a slaughter."

The QIA is planning to establish a Truth Commission to get the other side of the dog slaughter story.

Qikiqtani executives were set to meet with their counterparts from Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and Nunavik's Makivik Corporation Friday to plan the commission.

Alikatuktuk pledges the commission will be independent of the QIA. The association requested $600,000 to fund the initiative from NTI and expects to hear back soon.

Audla said details of the commission are still being finalized, but says it will start its work next year. The commission's three members haven't been determined yet, but Audla said QIA is hoping for someone like Thomas Berger. Berger wrote the conciliator's report on the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement released earlier this year and is held in high esteem by Northern aboriginal communities for that, combined with his work on the then-proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline project in the 1970s.

Audla says the QIA wants people with respectability for the three commissioners positions so the process is "above board."