|Quite often Mysteries of Canada readers will question
some of the statements made in our stories. This is most common
with respect the story of Louis Riel. Most often the disagreement
is explained by the admission of the "critic" that they tend
to judge Riel by 2003 norms rather that in the context of what was
happening in Riel's time.
That introduction brings us to the story of Regina vs. Kikkik
and to a remarkable judge by the name of Jack Sissons.
Howard (Jack) Sissons was born in Orillia, Ontario in 1892.. After
graduating from Queen's University's Law School in 1917, he practiced
law in Grande Prairie for about 20 years. He served a term as
Member of Parliament for the Peace River region and he was defeated in
the election of 1945. During his time as MP he championed the
cause the Metis of the Lesser Slave Lake area in their treaty rights
negotiations with Ottawa. This was no mean feat as, at the time
(and until just recently), the Metis were not considered First Nation
people by either the government nor the other First Nations peoples.
Following his election defeat, Sissons was named as a District Judge
in southern Alberta. At the age of 63 he accepted the appointment
of Territorial Judge and moved North of Sixty.
Sissons had a reputation as a good judge of the law and good judge of
people. When he was presented with a case to judge he delved into
the history and culture of the accused and the accuser so that he might
deliver a verdict fitting the crime or acquit an accused if no crime was
This brings us to the case of Regina vs. Kikkik.
Kikkik was an Inuit woman who was charged with the murder of one of
her children in 1958. In 1958 the federal government forced the
relocation of Kikkik and her family from Ennadai Lake to Henik Lake,
closer to Hudson's Bay. The caribou were scarce and starvation
soon set in while they were making their trek. Traveling with
Kikkik, her husband Hallow and her five children, was her half-brother
Several day's short of their goal the travelers were stranded by a blizzard.
Hallow built an igloo and, with Ootek, went ice fishing. While out
fishing the starving and delusional Ootek argued with Hallow and accused him of
withholding food. Ootek shot and killed Hallow.
On his return to the igloo without Hallow he got into a fight with Kikkik
who, in self-defense, stabbed him to death. Stranded and
without food, Kikkik made the decision to push on to the nearest
outpost, some 5 days away by foot. Shortly into the arduous trek
she determined that she
could not travel with all five children so she left the two youngest
behind wrapped in caribou skins in a snow house she dug out using a
frying pan as her only tool.
She was spotted later the same day by a police aircraft and taken to Padley
Outpost. Kikkik was afraid of the police and told them that her
other two children had probably died. The following day the police
found the two girls, one of whom had died in her sleep.
Kikkik was charged with the murder of Ootek (based on her own
testimony), child neglect and the death of one of her children.
She was brought before Judge Jack Sissons.
In his initial statement to the jury, Sissons explained that Kikkik
was a "woman of a Stone Age society" and that she
should be judged not based on the black and white letter of the law but
rather in light of her circumstances and her culture.
The jury of four whites and two Inuit acquitted Kikkik of all
Sissons, who was known in the north as Ekok-toegee - "He Who Listens"
- died in 1969.
Kikkik lived for some years following the trial but she never spoke
of the events to her children. Her three surviving children
didn’t learn of it until they read the tale in Farley Mowat’s 1959
book, The Desperate People.