About the Nanilavut Initiative
On this page
Tuberculosis reached epidemic proportions in Canada in the early twentieth century and peaked among Inuit communities during the 1940s to the 1960s. Thousands of Inuit were sent south for treatment under the management of the Government of Canada. Although most returned home, many did not. Many families still do not know what became of loved ones who were sent south.
Many Inuit who died during the epidemic were buried near the southern hospitals and sanatoria where they were treated. Information on patients, whether living or deceased, was not effectively communicated back to family members.
Nanilavut, Inuktitut for 'Let's find them', is an initiative that will provide a range of supports including:
- project managers in each Inuit Land Claims Organization who will be able to search a database on behalf of family members and provide any information on their loved one
- commemorative events and monuments
- compassionate travel support for family members
- enhancements to gravesites
- health awareness
The database and other supports under the Nanilavut Initiative were guided by the Nanilavut Working Group, comprised of the Government of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Makivik Corporation, Nunatsiavut Government, Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Kivalliq Inuit Association, Government of Nunavut, Government of the Northwest Territories and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.
What the database contains
The Nanilavut database represents years of research. It is a secure and confidential database that contains information on more than 4,500 Inuit who underwent medical treatment during the 1940s to 1960s.
The database can include:
- the name of a specific person
- his or her community of origin
- the hospital or sanatorium where the person was treated
- the date of their death
- the location of the gravesite or cemetery where the deceased was buried
The database contains research gathered from the following sources:
- Library and Archives Canada
- Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
- Health Canada
- Indigenous Services Canada
- provincial and territorial archives
- religious archives
- books and articles
- outreach to hospitals and cemeteries across Canada
- in-person interviews by Nanilavut Working Group members with individuals aware of what happened to family members
Records contained in the Nanilavut database may be incomplete as only partial records exist. Many of the records were scattered, incomplete, lost or even destroyed. There will be some instances where the database will have no information about the family member from the past tuberculosis era.
The database will be updated as, more information becomes available on the status of former patients.
Where to find information on a family member
To request information on a family member who died during the past tuberculosis epidemic, contact the Nanilavut Project Manager in your region:
- Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
- Inuvialuit Regional Corporation
- Makivik Corporation
- Nunatsiavut Government
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Nanilavut project managers will be responsible for:
- confirming you are a relative looking for information on a family member from the past tuberculosis era
- searching the database for information on your behalf
- providing you with copies of records about your family member found in the database
- helping you find other avenues of research, if records are incomplete
If the information shows that your family member died but the precise location of the gravesite or cemetery is not available, Project Managers will also help you contact appropriate provincial departments to continue your search.
Nanilavut Project Managers can also provide you with valuable information about:
- available health supports
- compassionate travel support to assist family members to visit gravesites
- commemorative activities that will be held to honour lost loved ones