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Ottawa to apologize for forced relocation of Ahiarmiut in Nunavut

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Between 1949 and 1959, officials with the Canadian government forced Ahiarmiut from their homes in southwestern Nunavut to the coast of Hudson Bay and left them to fend for themselves.

They were often dropped off in unfamiliar communities. With few supplies in a harsh environment, many starved to death.

Later this month, the Canadian government will formally apologize for this, with Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, travelling to Arviat, Nunavut on Jan. 22 to deliver the apology in person.

“I think it’s going to be one of the happiest days of my life,” said David Serkoak, the president of the Ahiarmiut Relocation Society. Serkoak has been working on getting an apology and compensation for the forced relocations for 20 years.

“We will also be thinking about those who are left behind, how they have survived to date, those who are raising their children,” he said in Inuktitut.

“We will remember all those who have passed on, on January 22.”

Last summer, the Ahiarmiut and the federal government agreed to a $5 million settlement for survivors of the relocations and their children.

At the time of the settlement, each of the 21 survivors were promised $100,000, while the 164 children of survivors were set to receive $3,000.

David Serkoak has been working for 20 years on getting a settlement and apology from the federal government over the forced relocations of Ahiarmiut. (Submitted by David Serkoak)

Arviat, a community of about 2,500 people, sits on the western shore of Hudson Bay.

During the 1950s, people living inland to the west in Ennadai Lake, were moved several times by the Canadian government — to Nueltin Lake, Henik Lake, Arviat (known as Eskimo Point until 1989) and then from Arviat to Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet.

“Nothing can repair the things [that happened],” Serkoak said. “But governments need to acknowledge the mistakes they made to Ahiarmiut … we’re a very small group and are declining very fast.

“To see our elders see this day and the unveiling of the memorial plaque … it will be an emotional day for all of us.”    

Some Ahiarmiut were moved from their communities because officials at the time felt that they would lose their independence if they came in close contact with white soldiers stationed at the the army’s radio station at Ennadai Lake.

Others were moved to fill jobs at a commercial fishery at Neutin Lake, according to a 1959 government memorandum. The memo appears in an article Serkoak co-published for the 2006 Inuit Studies Conference.

Agents with the Canadian government forced Ahiarmiut from their traditional community Ennadai Lake to Henik Lake, Nueltin Lake, Arviat (Eskimo Point) and Whale Cove. (CBC)

During the relocations, officials destroyed possessions at Ennadai Lake and Ahiarmiut were ill-equipped to live in their new, remote communities, Serkoak wrote in the paper.

As a result, people died of starvation, exposure to the cold, and at least two men were murdered.  

In the article, one survivor, Job Muqyunnik, recalled the relocation from Ennadai Lake to Nueltin Lake as “the saddest time of my life.”

“We had nothing, not even a cup or a knife, nothing. No axe, nothing at all,” Muqyunnik said. “There were a whole bunch of us. There were us men, and our wives. They started to cry, knowing they might not survive.”

Mary Qahuq, Serkoak’s mother, was relocated from her home. Serkoak says he’ll be thinking of her during the apology in Arviat. (Submitted by David Serkoak)

Full day of commemorative events planned

The Jan. 22 apology will be delivered in Arviat at the end of a full day commemorating the forced relocations. A memorial plaque will be unveiled, hymns will be sung and survivors and their children will speak, said Serkoak.

After Bennett delivers the apology, Serkoak says he will issue a formal reply and accept the apology on behalf of Ahiarmiut.

The plan is to wrap up the day with a community feast and square dancing.

Jan. 22 won’t be the first time the government has apologized for forced relocations in the North.

In 2010, the federal government apologized for the High Arctic relocation program in which 87 Inuit were moved from Inukjuak in northern Quebec to Grise Fiord and Resolute.  

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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