In This Issue....
A Few Thoughts on the Final Report on the Dog Slaughters
by Mark Hamilton
I read the RCMP's September, 2005 interim report, so it came as no surprise to me when the review team's final account found no evidence of an "organized mass slaughter of Inuit Sled Dogs". Of course, that finding came with a few qualifiers: it applies only to the RCMP, directed by the government or on it’s own initiative, between 1950 and 1970, in Nunavut and Nunavik.
I realize that just telling you I wasn't surprised isn't saying much. And this time I really don't want, or believe I should tell you everything that's on my mind. The 771-page report covers a lot of ground, touching on more issues than just the allegations of dogs wrongfully killed. Since I was not a party to, or witness of any of the alleged events, my opinion would just not be particularly useful to you. What everyone concerned needs to do is read these documents for him or herself and then draw their own conclusions.
I will say I was not at all pleased to see the Inuit Sled Dog identified as a large and dangerous predator, a hazard to health and safety. Words and sentences have been skillfully lifted from an assortment of documents and writings and assembled into what I view as a masterful mischaracterization. The ominous wording of the report reminds me of the wording we see in breed specific bans and regulations. And just as in the case of those breed specific bans and regulations, the principal criticism of this section of the RCMP report is that there is no justification for singling out the ISD. A starving or diseased Inuit Sled Dog is no more of a threat to humans than any other similar sized dog in fact, in the case of zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, a dog's size has nothing to do with seriousness of the threat.
Another example: First the report acknowledges multiple references to the necessity of early and intense socialization of Inuit Sled Dog puppies to humans (as a preface to their characterization of the dog as dangerous), but later in the report dismisses Inuit claims that it was not good for their dogs to be tethered on the basis that tethering didn't make southern dogs vicious.
From my reading of the executive summary and the internal report, I came to the conclusion that it was very important to the RCMP review team for the Inuit Sled Dog to be characterized as a large and dangerous predator. But in light of the ISD's record of partnership with the Inuit, a synergistic relationship spanning thousands of years that allowed the two to not only survive but also to thrive in the hostile climate of the arctic, I can only wonder at such a characterization.
The Arctic is harsh. It weeds out weakness. Strengths are identified and built upon. Once the snow melts, virtually overnight, the tundra is transformed with a coat of lush vegetation. Little plants that survived the extreme cold of the long arctic winter leap from the poor soil, bloom and spread their seeds in the time-compressed arctic spring/summer/fall. So too, animal life is shaped and tempered by the unyielding conditions of the Arctic. From polar bear to lemming, it's the same, meet the challenge or perish. It's a shame the RCMP report, after acknowledging the alliance between the Inuit and their dogs, fails to honor that, choosing instead to mischaracterize the dog.