October 13, 2016 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) would like to extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family, loved ones, and Inuit community known to the late Annie Pootoogook, an admired, internationally-acclaimed Inuit artist. Our heart goes out to the Inuit community members across Canada who are in the midst of mourning their loss at today’s memorial at St. Paul’s Eastern United Church in Ottawa, Ontario and at yesterday’s funeral at Pootoogook’s hometown of Cape Dorset, Nunavut.
In solidarity with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, we would also like to sternly condemn the racist and derogatory comments posted online by an Ottawa police officer after the body of Annie Pootoogook was found in Ottawa’s Rideau River on September 19.
Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada said, “We will not be commenting on Annie’s death at this time, out of respect for her family’s wishes.”
NWAC supports Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, in calling for stern disciplinary action against the officer whose hurtful and despicable words further highlight the issue of systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada and the urgent need to address it.
“It is absolutely reprehensible that only two months after the official launch of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – whose terms of reference emphasized how the role of institutional racism within law enforcement agencies results in inadequate police investigations into violent crimes against Indigenous women – the racist Ottawa police officer proceeds with harming Ottawa’s Indigenous community without any repercussions,” President Francyne Joe said.
Annie Pootoogook, 46, was a world-known Inuit artist whose ink and crayon drawings depicting everyday life and struggles in the North brought her international fame and numerous awards, having her artwork displayed at museums and art galleries across Canada, the United States and Europe. As the daughter of celebrated Inuit artists Napachie Pootoogook and Eegyvudluk Pootoogook and granddaughter of the Order of Canada recipient Pitseolak Ashoona, artistic talent is deeply rooted in her family and community in Cape Dorset, Nunavut.
As an artist whose work has brought much needed public awareness to the issues faced by Inuit communities in the North and as a strong Indigenous woman, Annie Pootoogook and her grieving family should be given the respect, empathy and justice that they rightly deserve, by both the wider Canadian public and the Ottawa police force. It is our collective responsibility to honour Annie Pootoogook and celebrate her impactful contribution to the world.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies. As a national organization representing Aboriginal women since 1974, NWAC’s mandate is to achieve equality for all Aboriginal women in Canada.
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