The community of Nunavut still without a mortuary – Peace Arch News

When James Dulac’s friend died in 2019, his body was kept the same as others in his northern Nunavut community – in a shed with no heat or electricity.

Dulac, who lives in Gjoa Haven, said he was shocked to see his friend’s frozen body in a bag and covered in blood on the hangar floor.

“(His) body was in an RCMP plastic bag, lying on the frozen ground. Another body was also lying on the ground with its head resting on (its) feet, ”Dulac wrote in a letter last January to Tony Akoak, his member of the Legislative Assembly of the territory.

His friend’s arms and legs were twisted and frozen in place, making it impossible to put him in a coffin. It must have been put in a cardboard box instead, Dulac said.

Without a mortuary to deposit the bodies, the community of around 1,300 people use an old storage shed, which Dulac describes as a container with barricaded windows.

“When someone dies, there is nowhere to put them. They go on the floor and if there is more than one person, the other person goes on top, ”Dulac told The Canadian Press.

Not much has changed since writing to Akoak, Dulac said. Another friend of Akoak who recently died has been left in the same condition.

“There were two other bodies lying on his feet. One on his feet, one on his leg. It’s incredible, ”he said.

“I tried to clean it, but it was frozen. It’s just heartbreaking.

Dulac wants to see a new space built with an area for preparing bodies, as well as a room for people to pray.

Akoak said the hangar has been in use as a mortuary for as long as he can remember. He said he raised the issue in the Legislature six times, most recently this fall, but nothing has changed.

“I hope this will be the last time I need to lift it,” Akoak told the assembly in September.

“It’s not a pretty sight if you walk into this building.”

The hamlet of Gjoa Haven had asked the Government of Nunavut to pay for a mortuary through a program called the Small Capital Fund, which supports projects of up to $ 250,000.

Jeannie Ehaloak, Nunavut’s Minister of Community and Government Services at the time, told Akoak that Gjoa Haven applied too late, not meeting the September 1 deadline, so the application was denied.

The next funding deadline is April 1, Ehaloak said.

“We want to rest them respectfully. I really want this. But I guess we’ll have to wait another year for that to happen, ”Akoak said.

Community and government services purchased two portable morgues in May 2020, but it is not known what was done with them. They cost around $ 77,000 each.

The department did not respond to a request for comment on Gjoa Haven’s application or on the number of other communities in Nunavut that need a mortuary or have requested funding to build one.

Dulac said at this point he was calling on the federal and territorial governments for help.

“Ask them in the south end of the city of Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal if they would accept a container as a mortuary. Why us?

“What makes them different from us?” “

—Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press


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