After he finished blessing the Olympic cauldron and the crowd around it began a shivering rendition of O Canada, Simeonia Amagoala struggled to sing along. It's not a surprise the words didn't come easily to him.

The Olympic torch relay yesterday arrived in a town whose beginnings in 1953 represent one of the sorriest chapters in Canadian history.

Mr. Amagoala was 19 when the federal government took his Inuit family from their home at Inukjuak, in Northern Quebec, and put them on the Arctic ship the C.D. Howe. The boat dropped Mr. Amagoala's family, and others, off here, at the north end of Resolute Bay.

The government of the day said it would be for only a year. It ended up being a lifetime.

"The government made all sorts of promises about what they would give us," the 75-year-old Mr. Amagoala said through an interpreter. "They said they would build us houses. But there was nothing. There was nothing here when they dropped us off - just rock. We built igloos until we could get materials to build houses.

"The government never communicated with our family after that. My parents were very, very angry."

Mr. Amagoala is one of only three people from the 1953 relocation still alive. There was a second forced move out of the same area of Quebec two years later.

George Eckalooh's family was part of that shipment of Inuit to Resolute's desolate shores. He was 11 when he boarded the boat for the unknown land for which he was heading.

"I didn't know what was going on," said Mr. Eckalooh, now 64. "I didn't mind going on the ship at the time. After we got there my parents were so angry. It was nothing like what the government told them it would be. It was completely desolate except for a few igloos that were built by those who got dropped off a couple years earlier.

"But there was no school, no church, no nurse. Nothing. We were just dumped on the beach. We had to fight off polar bears. It was unbelievable. My parents tried to get back to Quebec but the government never gave them an opportunity. The government shut off communication once they dropped us off. It withdrew its offer to return families that wanted to go back to Quebec after a year."

The government designed the relocation as a means of establishing sovereignty in the area during the beginnings of the Cold War. A royal commission that was established in 1993 to investigate the relocation was critical of Ottawa for its treatment of those who were forced to move. The government paid $10-million to the families but never apologized.

Meantime, life in the town today - where temperatures hovered around minus 40 degrees as torchbearers jogged through town - is almost as barren and unforgiving as it was more than 60 years ago.

Inootiq Manik, whose mother, Saroomie, is the town's mayor, said there is nothing for young people to do. There is no rink, no swimming pool. The federal government has built nothing to help ease life here.

Consequently, many of his friends turned to drugs and alcohol during their teenaged years. And many fell into depression.

"Five of my friends committed suicide," said Mr. Manik, who is now 20. "I had to take the rope off the neck of my best friend. I'm angry about that. I'm angry at the government because they don't care about us."

Mr. Amagoala doesn't associate the Olympic flame with a federal government that brought so much heartache to his people. Neither does Mr. Eckalooh. He can think only of the young people in the community. If the torch makes them happy, or better still inspires them to do great things, then its presence here will have been worth it.

Meantime, he is using the determination of an Olympian to get the one thing the people of Resolute Bay want most: an apology from Ottawa.

"Our story is such a sad story," Mr. Eckalooh said. "Simeonia is getting older. He is an original here. We want the federal government to apologize while he is still with us. And I won't quit going after Ottawa until we get it."


The Frozen Chosen

Usually the last stepping stone for explorers attempting to reach the North Pole, this Canadian Forces military station became the home for a night of the Olympic flame.

Only 817 kilometres from the pole, Alert represents the farthest north the Olympic flame has ever travelled. And one of the torchbearers on Sunday was a man they call the mayor of Alert - George Stewart.

Mr. Stewart was first stationed in Alert in 1957. He's been coming off and on for stints of six months or longer ever since. Now a civilian who organizes airlifts of supplies to the radio intelligence outpost, Mr. Stewart says the place gets in your blood.

But, he said, you can't ever shake the sense of isolation.

"That's the main thing you have to deal with and some deal with it better than others," Mr. Stewart said after the torch relay was over. "People still rely on the mail here and getting mail to keep their spirits up. And when that mail doesn't arrive for any reason it can be a real downer."

Those stationed here are known colloquially as the Frozen Chosen.

One of them is Kwaku Amoateng, of Toronto, who not that long ago was living in Ghana.

"It's strange being in a place where it's dark 24 hours a day in the winter," said Mr. Amoateng, who's been in Alert for only a week. "You feel like going to bed at 2 in the afternoon. But you learn to deal with it."

The temperature in the winter often drops to below -50. And if the wind blows . . .

Gary Mason


DAYS 11, 12 & 13





Wabash/ Labrador City



Happy Valley- Goose Bay