(Re)settlement, Displacement, and Family Separation: Contributors to Health Inequality in Nunavut


  • Gwen Healey




Inuit, Indigenous, Attachment, Trauma, Kinship, Family, Relocation


The Northern Review 42 (2016): 47–68

A series of relocation events in the Canadian Arctic in the mid-twentieth century contributed to widespread disruption of Inuit families. The objectives of this article are to: 1) provide a synthesis of the literature and oral histories about Inuit and Western academic perspectives on family attachments; 2) share findings from a recent study on perspectives of family relationships, which interviewed Inuit parents—many of whom were children at the time the relocation events in the 1950s and 1960s; and 3) discuss the role of severed family attachments on health inequality in Nunavut. The research was conducted within an Indigenous knowledge framework, specifically, the Piliriqatigiinniq Partnership Community Health Research Model (Healey & Tagak Sr., 2014). Data were collected in face-to-face interviews with twenty Inuit parents in three Nunavut communities. An analytical approach building on the concept of Iqqaumaqatigiinniq (all knowing coming into one), “immersion and crystallization,” was used to identify story elements in the data. Parents in the study identified the experience of forced relocation and/or attendance at residential school as traumatic events for families. These events broke the chain of Inuit knowledge transmission, which participants blamed for health inequalities observed in northern communities today. Participants who did not experience relocation attributed their confidence and ability to communicate health knowledge to the bonds they had with their children. Reclaiming and revitalizing Inuit attachment perspectives is part of the path to overcoming the trauma that Canadian Inuit families have experienced, and which is a contributor to health inequality in the region. Focusing on wellness-promoting pathways in our communities can, in turn, help reduce the health inequality gap in the North.

Author Biography

Gwen Healey

Executive and Scientific Director, Qaujigiartiit
Health Research Centre, Iqaluit, Nunavut; Assistant Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine






Northern Inequalities: Global Processes, Local Legacies