Memorial held for Elisapee Pootoogook in Cabot Square
Friends, community gather in commemoration
It was just above 0 degrees celsius on Monday when a shivering crowd of a hundred people gathered at Cabot Square to commemorate Elisapee Pootoogook. The 61-year-old inuk woman was found lifeless near a construction site on November 13th.
“It was said [before], and it is said in this case again - that cold should not be killing our people,” Ghislain Picard’s voice resonated on the facades of the newly built condos that now dwarf the Square.“But that’s the tragic conclusion we have come to.” He recalled how, just last Winter, Raphael Napa Andre of the Innu nation had passed away under similar circumstances.
Picard, who is the Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador, was the only political leader present at the memorial. In his speech, he urged the Mayor to do more for the city’s indigenous peoples.
“We have thousands of our people across the country, many of them in Montreal that, to no fault of their own, chose Montreal as their home [...] and I think the city needs to wake up and maybe look at this as an opportunity to provide an example to other cities.”
Those who knew and loved Elisapee gave touching speeches, describing her as a gentle, special soul whose absence leaves her children and grandchildren brokenhearted.
“We loved her, her family loved her, she will be missed,” said Rita Novalinga from the Makivik Corporation - the organisation that represents Quebec’s Inuits.
“I would like all of us to take down our barriers and help one another” she said, “we want shelter, we want food, we want love.” As cold air gusted over the crowd, Novalinga continued: “the wind is on my back now, helping me deliver this message. I think it’s hearing the message.”