‘I’ve been getting calls every day’: Meet the man in charge of finding TB victims

The manager of the Nanilivut project says he has been busy since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to help Inuit find the remains of loved ones who died in southern sanatoriums during the tuberculosis epidemic of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

“Since the prime minister made the official apology, I’ve been getting gcalls everyday,” said Joanasie Akumalik.

“It’s overwhelming.”

The apology from Trudeau on March 8, was for how Inuit were treated during the epidemic.

More than 4,000 Inuit were sent south for treatment.

Close to 900 never came back.

Inuit see the Nanilivut project as the beginning of a journey.

The job for Akumalik is massive.

But, the first few days have been promising.

“Since the apology, we have found, officially found one grave, in southern Canada, and it looks like we have another one, but we have to confirm everything,” he said. The family who found their lost loved one will be able to travel to the grave, place a tombstone, and gain some peace of mind.

“People are calling, from Kitikmeot region, Kivalliq as well as Qikiqtaliq. I’m working on seven files right now, at this moment.”

It may take an entire generation before judging whether the search for graves was a success or not.

But at least one family, the exercise was well worth it.

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.