01 May 2013

The Long Exile by Melanie McGrath

Thoughts and Reflections:
I had wanted to learn a bit more about some of the issues in Canadian history. This book is about the exile of Inuit people into the far north, mostly as a means to protect Canada's sovereignty in the area. In The Long Exile, the author focuses primarily on the relocation of Inuit from Inukjuak on the Ungava Peninsula on the eastern coast of Hudson's Bay to Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island in the far north. In part, she follows the lineage of Robert Flaherty, the creator of the 1920 documentary Nanook of the North, who fathered a son with an Inuit woman while filming, but left before his son was born.

Typically, I have not been a great non-fiction reader, and prefer a good novel to relax. Melanie McGrath, however, managed to write this history in a very accessible way. Perhaps she could be compared to Pierre Burton, by writing a bit of a narrative, somehow, to an historic time-line. This is not a work of historical fiction, though the author does include a bit of wondering about the thoughts of the various people involved. At points, she describes what a character was thinking at a particular time, which she couldn't possibly have known. There are no citations in the book, though it is evident that the author has done her research.

The book had good flow and I very much enjoyed the read. I'm sure historians certainly would take some issue with how she presents the information, but they get picky with Pierre Burton as well. The author did decide to leave out certain information until the end, perhaps not wanting to interrupt one issue with another.  The end was a bit of a race to get the remaining facts out and leaves the reader wondering a bit about what all went on. So, all in all, I did find that this book was a wonderful introduction to this issue, which has been listed as one of the worst abuses of human rights in Canada. I would also recommend doing some follow up reading on the issue. In no way is this a definitive text on the subject. It is, however, an accessible text on an issue all Canadians should be aware of.

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