An old storage shed with no heat or electricity is where the bodies are kept in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut.
“It is not a very nice place to put someone you love,” said the community’s MLA, Tony Akoak to CBC.
The shed is used as the local morgue with none of the convenience of a real facility.
“It’s not a pretty sight to see if you go into that building,” said Akoak, in the legislature Thursday.
The interior is covered in dust and there is cut up wood on the floor. The lack of electricity makes it cold and dark, said Akoak.
This shed has been the local morgue ever since he can remember. He brought the issue to the legislature in 2019 and again this October.
Still, nothing has been done.
Resident said he was shocked at the condition
Akoak received a letter from a Gjoa Haven resident, James Dulac, in January, outlining a horrific experience with the building.
A friend of his died by suicide and with the family’s permission he was going there to dress the body for the burial.
“I was shocked for what I saw,” said Dulac, in the letter.
His friend lay on the floor in an plastic RCMP bag, and a different body lay on his friend’s feet.
Dulac opened his friend’s body bag to find him covered in blood with his shoes still on, his arms and legs twisted and frozen in place.
It was a “clear indication that he did not get cleaned properly prior to be taken to the [morgue],” Dulac wrote.
His friend’s body would not fit into the coffin, because of how his friend was placed. They had to use a large plywood box, he said.
“Our loved ones, our people when saying goodbye to this world, deserve respect, deserve to be treated with dignity, deserve better treatment,” said Dulac in the letter.
“Having a morgue at least with all the necessary needs, it is not a [luxury], it is a right, it is a need,” he wrote.
Dulac said he brought the issue to the municipality but has not seen any solution yet.
In an email to Akoak, Dulac offers two weeks of his salary to be put toward getting a proper morgue.
Government has unused portable morgues
The Department of Community and Government Services bought two portable morgues in May 2020.
The morgues cost $77,520 and the department said they are part of an inventory the government is building to respond to community emergencies.
The containers arrived in June and have been sitting in Iqaluit ever since.
Community and Government Services Minister Jeannie Ehaloak committed to contact the municipality of Gjoa Haven about the issue.