It would be hard to find a Nunavummiuq who does not know the history of the High Arctic Exiles, the Inuit the federal government took from their homes in Nunavik and dropped off at Resolute and Grise Fiord in the 1950s.
The exiles created the communities we have there now but their history bears the scars of the forced relocation, an abandonment that saw 87 Inuit unaccustomed to the High Arctic conditions, left unprepared for the winter, and with limited knowledge of local hunting opportunities.
Our reporter travelled to Grise Fiord in 2014 for the opening of the hamlet’s new municipal office and recreation centre. While there, Laisa Audlaluk-Watsko, the daughter of relocatee Larry Audlaluk, made a point of taking us to the monument to the exiles, commissioned by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and erected in 2010. A similar monument was erected in Resolute Bay. Shortly before the unveiling of the monuments, the federal government apologized for its actions. We’d like to see a memorial in Ottawa to remind the rest of Canada of this shameful decision by federal officials.
Seeing these monuments in person is a powerful reminder of how alone these people must have felt. As the families were divided to populate three locations, the Resolute monument depicts a solitary man looking toward Grise Fiord, to family members from whom he was separated.
Cognizant of this painful history, it’s a surprise that at some point a decision was made that the landfill in Resolute Bay should be placed on the site where the exiles first took shelter. The location of the dump shows disrespect for the people who suffered all those years ago, forced to build a new life for themselves in the name of Arctic sovereignty.
A new dump will be built but will the exiles’ site dump be cleared?
This is just the latest on a long list of landfill-related problems facing Nunavut’s communities. Most are old and lack safeguards to prevent toxic waste from leeching into the waters so valued by Nunavummiut. Too many require fires to reduce their size, an act that sends toxins into the air Nunavummiut breathe. All are underfunded and lack any sort of waste reduction incentives.
Even the best intentions have fallen flat due to lack of long-term funding. Witness Tundra Take-back, the excellent car recycling pilot project that no longer operates in Nunavut. Witness Iqaluit’s dump fire and the city’s subsequent difficulties reducing the risk of another such debacle through cardboard shredding and incineration.
The cherry on this garbage sundae is that so many dumps are the first sight upon arrival to our fair communities. It’s true in Grise Fiord, and it will be true in Iqaluit for cruise passengers when the port opens (as a consolation, air passengers get a wonderful view of Iqaluit’s famous jail).
But nothing should sour our view more than seeing a dump on an historic site. No wonder it’s a regular source of contention in Resolute. Let’s show some respect and clean it up.