'I'm troubled': Inuit politician reacts to PM apology in Nunavut
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, March 8, 2019 2:51PM EST
A Nunavut politician whose grandmother was one of thousands of Inuit who were relocated south by the government for tuberculosis care between the 1940s and 1960s said she’s somewhat satisfied by the prime minister’s apology, but said she’s troubled by the ongoing SNC-Lavalin affair.
Cathy Towtongie, the territory’s MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official apology in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Friday an important day.
“Our ancestors deserve a genuine apology,” she told CTV News Channel.
Towtongie said she was only six years old when her grandmother was relocated to the south of Canada for tuberculosis treatment. She said her family never knew where she went or what happened to her.
“The last memory I have of my grandmother, I was being pulled and torn away from her by the settlement administrator,” she said. “I looked up to her and her whole body was trembling and silent tears were going down her face.”
It was 23 years before Towtongie said she was finally able to track down her grandmother’s burial plot in the Mile 6 Cemetery in Manitoba. She noted that many Inuit families to this day still don’t know what happened to their relatives who were transferred south.
During his press conference on Friday, Trudeau called the treatment of Inuit in the North by past governments a “shameful” chapter in Canadian history.
“To the people who were sent south, we are sorry. We are sorry for forcing you from your families. For not showing you with the respect and care you deserved. We are sorry for your pain. To the people whose loved ones were taken away, we are sorry. We are sorry for breaking what is most precious, the love of a home,” he said.
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.
Although Towtongie acknowledged she heard to “some degree” what she wanted to hear from the prime minster, she said she was still concerned about the government’s role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
“I’m troubled with SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould when the highest offices of this land play around with the rule of law,” she said. “That I find troubling and I find lacking [in] trust for Inuit people for the future.”