New statue in Iqaluit honors Inuit special constables and their sled dogs

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and the RCMP unveiled a new monument dedicated to the RCMP’s Inuit Special Constables and their Qimmiit (sled dogs) in front of the RCMP V Division Headquarters in Iqaluit on December 2.

Featuring an Inuit special constable and a sled dog, the life-size statue in front of the RCMP building was sculpted by Inuit artists Looty Pijaamini and Paul Maliki.

“RCMP V Division is honored to have had the opportunity to work with QIA and the Inuit carvers on this incredible project which will recognize the courageous work of the Inuit Special Constable and the qimmiit,” said V Division Commander of the RCMP, Amanda Jones.

Jones said it was the Inuit special constables – and the Inuit men and women who helped before the role was established – who ensured that the young men of the RCMP were able to fulfill their tasks, guiding long patrols by dogsled and boat.

“Without them, the RCMP would not have survived,” added Jones.

QIA President Olayuk Akesuk, left, and RCMP officers unveil a statue dedicated to Inuit special constables and their sled dogs. Photo by Trevor Wright/NNSL

QIA Chairman Olayuk Akesuk hailed the monument as another step towards reconciliation as outlined in the Qikiqtani Truth Commission report, particularly the third recommendation. “Since 2010, we have been implementing the recommendations of the QTC report,” said Akesuk, “QIA is proud of the work of Inuit carvers in bringing this era to life through their art.

Nunavut Premier and former QIA President PJ Akeeagok was also pleased to see another of the report’s recommendations moving forward, particularly regarding the role of special constables in Nunavut.

“They have played an important role throughout Nunavut and the significant sacrifices they and their families have made. It is such a special moment to see the monument unveiled today,” said Akeeagok.

The new monument unveiled at RCMP headquarters in Iqaluit is dedicated to Inuit special constables and their dogs. Photo by Trevor Wright/NNSL

Former Inuit special constable Lew Phillip, born in 1947, spoke Inuktitut and recalled life in Arctic Bay decades ago. He recalled regularly meeting with RCMP officers at Pond Inlet, the nearest police station at the time, sheltering and helping to feed the officers when they were in Arctic Bay.

“They were dressed and fed by people from these communities. To move forward he has hope and wants to move forward beyond all the painful experiences that happened in the 1940s, 50s and 60s when there was the culling of the dogs,” interpreted the RCMP Constable. Pauline Melanson on behalf of Phillip.

During the early to mid-20th century, Inuit special constables accompanied RCMP members as translators, guides, and generally helping the southern RCMP survive in the Arctic.

RCMP Constable Pauline Melanson (left) and former Inuit special constable Lew Phillip at the dedication of a new monument dedicated to special constables and their dogs on December 2. Photo Trevor Wright/NNSL

Bette C. Alvarado