Storm keeps Trudeau from landing in Iqaluit for apology to Inuit

Prime Minister was expected to issue an apology Thursday 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.

An early morning windstorm in Iqaluit quickly turned into a blizzard that forced Trudeau’s plane to divert to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L. The Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau’s visit would be postponed until Friday at the earliest.

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

Thousands of Inuit were taken from their communities in the 1940s through the 1960s, and brought to places like Hamilton for treatment. Many of them never saw their families again.

During the 20-year span, tuberculosis was rampant in Canada’s arctic. So the government shipped people from the north to the south. More than 1,200 patients were treated at the Sanatorium in Hamilton.

In a 2016 interview, 93-year-old Hilda Ferrier, who started her nursing career at the Sanatorium in 1952, remembered vividly how scared the Inuit were.

“It was a very traumatic time, they didn’t speak any English. They were thrown into a situation they didn’t comprehend, it took them awhile to acclimatize themselves,” said Ferrier.

Thirty-seven Inuit patients who died at the Sanatorium are buried at the Woodland Cemetery, a memorial was put up in 1995.

Many families of those who died were never told what happened to their loved ones. A database has been set up that will help family members locate their relatives burial sites.

Trudeau was expected to apologize for the government’s mistreatment of patients, but bad weather prevented him from getting to Iqaluit.