Access to Justice for Deaf Persons in Nunavut: Focus on Signed Languages



Broadcast: General
Broadcast Date: March 01, 2000
Program City: Rankin Inlet
Department: CBC North
Radio/Stereo: R

Interviewer: Lorne Kusugak
#GR0035D (UGJUK MONICA - Elder from Rankin Inlet)

Would you tell me how you feel about having deaf (mute) children in your family and how your family cope with this.
Monica Ugjuk:
I had a child born to me who was older than my daughter but she had died and not too long after I had my second baby, her name is Louisa, well when she started crawling and started walking we started noticing that there was something wrong with her because when we called her by her name she would not respond to us that’s when we found out that she was deaf. For a while there I would wonder how I was going to raise her well in her growing years, that’s the first thing that went through my mind how I would raise her but before that I had heard there were deaf people out there that’s why I was not too worried. In the fall when we were in Baker Lake we were told we can watch movie about deaf children after watching the movie. We were advised that we would have to send out our child for some testing. Back then I was afraid to talk back about how I felt. Anyway I just said yes about sending her out for medical. I started to think about this having my child go and I would feel sorry for her. When she turned 3 years they sent her out to Winnipeg. They let her stay down south for the whole year. We then moved to Rankin Inlet, that’s when they finally sent her home. After she arrived home to us it was sad because she started missing the place where she was, we were living in tents back then. She would go home during the summer only and the rest of the year she would go back to Winnipeg. It was very hard for the both of us because she would have to leave home to go to school down south, we would both be crying before she left us this was the hardest part having to let her leave us. This went on for years. Back then we would not even write letters or phone to find out how she was. The only time that we would find out from each other was when she arrived home from Winnipeg, there were no communication between us or any means of writing to each other. She spend 3 or 4 years then on to Vancouver Jericho High School went to school there for about 10 years or more. Then our family moved on to another community to Whale-Cove. There was a Social worker that contacted me telling me that I have to go to his office but then I was so upset I never went to see him. Because it was getting harder to let my daughter leave us anyway I would still let her go because I was so afraid of the white people back then. But even though it was very hard I would still let her leave now I appreciate myself for having to let her go because it paid off at the end. She now has a full time permanent job.
Although it was hard to let your daughter go. Has it at the end help you and your daughter?
Yes very much. She can now support herself, maybe if she had not got the education, it would have been different. Maybe she would not have been able to find job.
looking at this she is not the only one she has sisters and brothers who are also deaf (mute). One of them going to school in Rankin Inlet do you see any difference? For example, you have known your daughter when she was younger and now you have other deaf (mute) children, is there any difference between them?
I can tell you the difference you know my son Phillip.

Yes. Phillip was also sent to Winnipeg, he went to school in Winnipeg for 3 years but maybe because he was a boy like for my daughter she would cry not wanting to leave but she would still leave even though she didn’t want to but with my son it was very hard once he made up his mind he would not go at all. Or it was myself that did not let him go because I loved him so much, I was the one that spoiled him.

I would fight with my son to bring him into the taxi and this taxi then would take Phillip to the airport then he would be fighting not to go on the plane. It was very painful to see him and having to try and fight him to go because we were told that he has to go south to school. But after that I have been doing a lot of thinking. It was hard enough to go through this with my older daughter, I can’t remember if I had asked the social worker or the teacher, but I went and asked them why can’t they send up a teacher who would be teaching the deaf children when it is so easy for you to bring up everything else. Then the reply I got was to bring up all the tools and everything else would be too much like the teaching materials. I would be crying deep inside my heart. So I told them if it is hard for you to let them know that it is also hard for us to let our children leave. Please work hard at getting in a teacher to teach my children in Rankin. I have told them that I was not happy to send out my children and I should be the one to raise them because I am the mother of them. Then they replied to me that they would look into getting a teacher up that would be teaching deaf children. Then not too long later they were working at sending up a teacher, a teacher who has ASL language and sign language. I have 5 children that are deaf (mute) 2 girls and 3 boys. I know that they would get better education if they were going to school in Winnipeg for the deaf but like I have been saying all along that it was very hard to see them leaving us. But for them to get education right here at home it is so much easier because I would understand them better and they would understand me better. Although I often wondered if it was my fault that they are not receiving the education they need. But here at home they have no difficulty communicating with friends and family.

For them having education here in Rankin do you see any difference between Louisa who went to school down south.
Yes I do see the difference because when my daughter went south it was harder for her to have friends or family close to her because of communication problem. But with my other deaf children right here they would have friends with them even the speaking would be good friends with them. Their friends would know how to communicate with them.
Even though they are deaf do they have good friends.
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