Trudeau apologizes for government's past mistreatment of Inuit with TB

Maricruz Casares
Marcha 11, 2019

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.

Perhaps more importantly, sources familiar with today's planned event, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an announcement that isn't yet public, say the prime minister will also announce the opening of a database that Inuit families can soon use to find loved ones who died when they were transported south for treatment.

The database is part of a wider initiative called Nanilavut, which means "let's find them" in Inuktitut.

The apology has been in the works for the better part of two years since Trudeau signed an Inuit-Crown partnership agreement in 2017.

As for the apology, and the database, Eetoolook said he believes it will bring closure to many Inuit. His organization acts as the national voice of the roughly 60,000 Inuit living in four sections of northern Canada.

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Those who underwent the treatments often lived for long periods of times in sanatoriums.

Justin Trudeau was scheduled to apologize for how Inuit patients were treated in southern Canada between the 1940s and 1960s where they were sent with Tuberculosis (TB).

"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.

"The government has said it wants to eliminate TB by 2030", Eetoolook said. The agency cited cramped social housing, overcrowding in homes, high smoking rates and high food prices among the main culprits.

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. "Some of the (burial grounds) will be hard to find". "We as a country have to also accept responsibility for things that happened and know that apologies are necessary for classes of people whose human rights have been violated".

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