This Labrador family lost their grandfather to tuberculosis. A new program helped find his unmarked grave

·3 min read
Maurice, left, and Brian Jacque at the cemetery in St. Anthony where they believe their long-lost grandfather was buried. (Submitted by Cathy Ford. - image credit)
Maurice, left, and Brian Jacque at the cemetery in St. Anthony where they believe their long-lost grandfather was buried. (Submitted by Cathy Ford. - image credit)

Maurice Jacque has finally met his grandfather — more than 70 years after he died.

The Postville man, along with his cousin, Brian Jacque, travelled to St. Anthony last month to pay his respects through Nanilavut, a project that's helping family members find the grave sites of loved ones who left their communities for tuberculosis treatments and never returned.

It's the first family trip through the Nunatsiavut government program.

"It was a good experience to be out there where your grandfather died once upon a time," Jacque said.

Jacque never had the opportunity to meet his late relative, who passed away in December of 1949. Jacque said he was told his grandfather left Labrador for tuberculosis treatment in St. Anthony and died while there.

"We did not know much about where exactly he died or where he was, what graveyard he was put into," Jacque said. "It seems a little better [now] that we know that he was there, where he was."

Jacque read out a prayer, played a hymn and placed flowers in the cemetery to pay his respects.

Submitted by Maurice Jacque.
Submitted by Maurice Jacque.

Despite the information that he's gained, Jacque still has questions. The death certificate for his grandfather says that he died from general tuberculosis and Pott disease — tuberculosis of the spine — but it's what happened after his death that Jacque wonders about.

"Was he given a proper funeral or was he just put down there, a little something said and that was it? Why wasn't he sent back to Labrador? Another question was, why wasn't the grave site marked?" said Jacque.

Jacque isn't sure if those questions will ever be answered.

A trip to remember

This trip to St. Anthony was meaningful for not just the family, but also for Cathy Ford, who's helping lead the program.

"I'm very pleased and I can't stop smiling," Ford said.

Her first meeting with the family happened in January 2020. Nearly two years later, they traveled together to St. Anthony.

Submitted by Cathy Ford
Submitted by Cathy Ford

In order to try and track down where loved ones are buried, Ford has had to search through church books, websites and work with the Department of Vital Statistics.

"[It's] like looking for a needle in a haystack…. It's actually quite difficult because my research is ongoing. I found some loved ones and [there are] still some loved ones I'm still searching for," said Ford.

For many families who had relatives leave Nunatsiavut for tuberculosis treatments and never return, information wasn't shared about what had happened to them. For Ford, that lack of information is one of the reasons why being able to go on these family trips is so important, to allow families to say those final goodbyes.

"I get emotional thinking about it," she said. "I know we can't bring our loved ones home, but I hope the families are feeling some kind of peace."

Ford says she plans to return to the cemetery in St. Anthony to leave some kind of marker to remember those who are buried there.

"That's my priority and something I want to do, so that nobody's forgotten," she said.

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