{On Freedom}

Jusie [Yoo-sie] is a natural storyteller. At 82 years of age, he had many stories from which to tell. Author Barbara Young captured some of these in her personal essay for CMAJ.

Aided by an interpreter, Young and the reader are taken on quite an adventure through Canadian-Inuit history.
Born in 1933, in Aculivik, Nunavik, known at the time as the Hudson Bay Company trading post Cape Smith, the community is transformed from a tranquil harmonious community - "no one was ever angry; always happy," Jusie notes - with the eventual arrival of the CD Howe. Taken aboard and x-rayed, Jusie would be relocated with many of his fellow villagers to James Bay and the Moose Factory: "I had no symptoms, and they never gave me a diagnosis," Jusie narrates.
Life in the Moose Factory was very different: 'a monstrous brick hospital' would be his home for the next four months. But it was the smells that he remembers most: strange food. antispetic. smells of sickness.
Four months afterwards, Jusie would be transferred to a Sanatorium in Hamilton, but still no diagnosis would be provided. No antibiotics, no surgery, not even another x-ray. Only strict bed rest.
Strict bed-rest was enforced. The men were not allowed to get up and use the toilet. If the men were caught sitting in the traditional Inuit cross-legged manner, a nurse would come and forcibly un-cross them.
They were not even allowed to speak to friends who passed by their window.
What was actively encouraged? Smoking. Six packets per week were provided for each Inuk man with the doctor encouraging them to "smoke as much as possible," in order to induce coughing.
Eventually, he was given permission to return back to Fort Smith only to discover his former home was deserted. All were relocated to Puvirnituq.
Jusie never enjoyed his former vigor and health again. A year of 'treatment' had left him weakened with tuberculosis.

Was he angry? "No. We didn't know angry," was his reply.

This story was really special to me.
It took me back to my University days where I took courses in Inuit Art and Culture. I had been exposed to the amazing spirit of these people and also, the frankly, questionable manner in which they were treated by Canadians.

I showed an ever-positive Jusie leaning forward, eager to share his life story. one hand is clenched like a fist to symbolize the repression he experienced early in his life; the other open and free like his spirit. The light from the window highlights all.


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