Canada: Inuit exiled to wasteland

Ellesmere island in Canada

From London daily The Morning Star:

Left to starve

(Tuesday 12 September 2006)

RAW DEAL: Canadians remain largely ignorant of their country’s dark past.

INTERVIEW: IAN SINCLAIR talks to MELANIE McGRATH about the Inuit that Canada cast into the frozen wasteland.

Every nation tells itself stories to make itself feel better.

Canadians seems to be better at this than most, tending to define themselves in opposition to their more powerful, aggressive southern neighbour.

Although Canada has always prided itself on not having had an indigenous peoples’ genocide like the United States, Melanie McGrath says that the “Canadians still have their skeletons in the cupboard.”

In her new book The Long Exile, McGrath cuts through the popular mythology that clouds our understanding of Canadian history by telling the story of what the head of the 1993 commission on aboriginal peoples called “one of the worst human rights violations in the history of Canada.”

The story begins with the film-maker Robert Flaherty travelling to the Arctic in the early 1920s to make Nanook of the North, now seen as one of the greatest documentaries ever made, lauded by such cinema greats as John Huston and Orson Welles.

Before he returned south, he had a brief affair with an Inuit woman and fathered a son.

Flaherty’s son Josephie was raised as an Inuit in the settlement of Inukjuak in northern Quebec, which had come to be seen as a problem by the Canadian government by the 1950s.

Concerned about the Inuits‘ dependency on government welfare, which, in itself, was a product of white peoples’ historical interference, it was decided to relocate a number of Inuit to more northern location.

In July 1953, having been deceived and pressured by local officials, 33 Inuit were transported over 1,000 miles north to settlements on Ellesmere Island.

Josephie and his family followed two years later.

McGrath argues: “The decision to move them at all was something to do with the welfare issue, but the decision to move them to the High Arctic that caused them so much suffering was to do with geopolitics.”

US Inuit vs. Bush on global warming: here.

Naomi Klein on native land rights in Canada: here.

8 thoughts on “Canada: Inuit exiled to wasteland

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