The Fan Hitch Volume 7, Number 4, September 2005

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

In This Issue...

Editorial: Building Bridges
F.I.D.O.: Marit Holm
Nunavik Dog Slaughters, Part III
Greenland Dog / Inuit Dog, The Same Dog
Differences in Mushing: Greenland and Arctic Canada, Part I
Fan Mail
Behavior Notebook: The Human Role
Book Review: Frozen Horizons
Product Review: Wheel Dog Harness
Tip for the Trail: Pack a Pruning Saw
 IMHO: The System
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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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From the Editor...

"You don't necessarily have to build friends; you have to build bridges."

                                                                              Charlie Weiss

At "press time" for The Fan Hitch, there had been no new action in the Canadian Parliament since June 8th when the House of Commons voted in favor of conducting a formal inquiry into the dog slaughter of the 1950s to 1970s. As has been suggested before, it appears that the government is awaiting the results of an investigation, now underway at their behest, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who the Inuit of Nunavik and Nunavut claim were principally responsible for carrying out the government's kill orders. (It is not only the RCMP who is said to have carried out Ottawa's orders.)

In late July, ISDI was surprised to receive a phone call from the RCMP's Ottawa office. The caller was heading up the dog slaughter investigation and had been looking for a copy of Ken MacRury's masters thesis, "The Inuit Dog: Its Provenance, Environment and History" as a resource to better understand the vital relationship between the Inuit and their dogs. ISDI expressed appreciation to the RCMP for this effort and, as a gesture of goodwill, sent a copy of Ken's thesis and Geneviève Montcombroux's book "The Canadian Inuit Dog: Canada's Heritage" to them at no charge. The Project Manager extended his organization's gratitude for the publications. He asked and was granted permission to include excerpts from them in upcoming reports as part of the "background information to give this matter context".

We have held cordial yet frank discussions. The ISDI has taken this opportunity to propose ways for the RCMP to earn credibility with the Inuit, who have questioned the force's ability to impartially investigate itself (or, for that matter, its boss, the federal government). We suggested that the report urge the federal government to proceed with the official inquiry Inuit groups have long requested. And regardless of the investigations' findings, the ISDI recommends that the report encourage action be taken to secure a place for the Inuit Dog in Arctic Canada, while the gene pool is still viable and knowledgeable elders are still available to consult. The RCMP Project Manager was forthcoming about his organization's mandate and the scope within which it must act. In other words, it is not within its purview to address political issues or solutions that might involve actions ISDI advocates. However, the RCMP has recognized that this issue is enormously sensitive, is impairing relations between the police and Inuit communities, and deserves an exhaustive look. Given the volume of material it now understands must be covered and the effort needed to thoroughly research, digest and assemble it, the plan is to extend the investigation, issuing a final, comprehensive report in May of 2006. This is significantly longer than the original 4-month mandate, or an official government 3-month inquiry for that matter, to probe the dog slaughter accusations. The RCMP is expected to meet its September '05 deadline by submitting a preliminary report to be tabled before the Standing Committee in Parliament. 

Regardless of what investigations may yield and what action those may generate in the future, right now is the time for both sides to come to the table and move towards reconciliation. As The Fan Hitch readers have previously learned, the dog slaughter era remains a painful issue for Inuit of Nunavik and Nunavut. Many voices have expressed how their dogs represented an essential part of their lives then, as well as a part of their cultural heritage now.  The interest and pride in Ivakkak and the Nunavut Quest indicate that the tradition of dog team travel continues to evoke strong emotions.  However, those two annual events alone are not the salvation of the pure Inuit Sled Dog. It is now time for those who have lamented the slaughter to step forward and do more to help the dogs once again prosper. For their part, the Canadian government needs to accept that whether or not a "smoking gun" is identified, there is something they must do to help begin remediation: extend the necessary support to an Inuit-generated program which will assure a future for the Inuit Sled Dog in the north.  This will be the right salve to heal this long festering wound. 

Rather than spending more manpower, time and money on fact finding commissions to determine innocence or guilt, harmony between the two cultures can be achieved by creating fences for dog breeding pens instead of reinforcing emotional barriers between Ottawa and the North. New medicine to cure an old lesion is long overdue.

Wishing you smooth ice, and narrow leads

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