Bringing Healing and Closure for TB Sanatorium Survivors

SeeChange Initiative, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Art Gallery of Hamilton invite you to join us for an event to learn more about the little-known history of Inuit tuberculosis sanatorium survivors, and the intergenerational trauma it has caused.

Written by
SeeChange Initiative
Published on
Jul 7, 2023
Jul 7, 2023

When: July 25th, 2023, 5.30 pm – 9.30 pm

5:00 pm: Doors open

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm: Reception with Inuit Elders and Mayor Andrea Horwath & Viewing of Chedoke Artworks Exhibition

7:30 pm - 9:30 pm: Screening of "The Necessities of Life" Movie Followed by  Closing Circle

Where: Art Gallery of Hamilton 123 King Street West, Hamilton, ON

Admission to the film screening and reception is by donation.  All donations will be used to support Inuit TB sanatorium survivors.

Fifteen Inuit elders who survived physical and psychological abuse in tuberculosis sanatoriums in the 1950s-70s, accompanied by five Inuit youth, will visit the site of the former TB sanatorium in Hamilton from July 24 to 26, 2023. The visit, the first of its kind in Canada, is organized by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and SeeChange at the request of the Elders and is part of the Tuberculosis Sanatorium Survivor Healing and Closure Initiative, which addresses the underlying trauma and stigma surrounding TB in Inuit communities.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Canadian government ships such as the ice breaker CD Howe sailed the Arctic, screening Inuit for TB and taking those who tested positive to TB sanatoriums in southern Canada, including Hamilton's Sanatorium on the Mountain. One in seven Inuit was sent south for treatment, without giving consent, without understanding why they were taken away, and without having the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones.

The evacuation split families, leaving many people without information about their loved one’s fate for years. Some patients died and were buried without their families’ knowledge.

The experience has resulted in intergenerational trauma in Inuit communities and has led to mistrust in the health system, one of the reasons that tuberculosis continues to be a public health crisis in the Arctic. Inuit today are nearly 300 times more likely to get TB than any Canadian-born, non-Indigenous person.

During their visit to Hamilton, the Elders will visit the site of the former sanatorium and the cemetery where Inuit who died of TB were buried, and participate in healing circles and workshops with trauma counselors. They will also view a collection of historic photos of sanatorium patients from the Health Sciences Archives at McMaster University and the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Chedoke Collection of Inuit Art produced by Inuit sanatorium patients.

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