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Qajaq or Kajak? Labrador ferry name doesn't use Labrador Inuit dialect

The new ferry for the Strait of Belle Isle is named the Qajaq W, pronounced kayak. Some are concerned that the spelling of the name uses a different Inuit dialect than is used in Labrador.
The new ferry for the Strait of Belle Isle is named the Qajaq W, pronounced kayak. Some are concerned that the spelling of the name uses a different Inuit dialect than is used in Labrador. - Contributed

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. - One of the two new ferries for Labrador had its name announced recently and not everyone is happy with it.

The new ferry for the Strait of Belle Isle, formerly the MV Grete, is now named the Qajaq W, pronounced "kayak." The name is an Inuktitut spelling of the word kayak, but not in the Labrador dialect. In the Labrador dialect of Inuktitut, it would be Kajak.

Elizabeth Winters Rice, an Inuk woman from Labrador who had two fluent speakers of Inuktitut as parents, said she was initially excited to hear about a new ferry from the island portion of the province link to the Labrador route.

“It’s great news, and is long overdue,” she said. “Once I read the article published on CBC’s website, I thought the spelling for Kajak (Labrador Inuktitut spelling for a seal skin boat) was a typo but as I continued to read it was clear that it was not the case. It is named Qajaq, yes it means the same, but its spelt using the Canadian Arctic, Greenland Inuit spelling.”
She said the written text does not use Q’s, but rather uses capital K (sounds like H) and k for lower case whereas, they use Q’s.

Winters Rice said it is definitely a positive decision to name the ferry in a way that reflects Labrador Inuit and they are to be commended for doing so, but she feels that the misspelling diminishes that.

She took to Facebook to express her concern about the issue and received many comments, some positive and some negative. She said it was upsetting to see how many people commented that it doesn’t matter how it’s spelled.

“To me it certainly matters, we have people who clearly have little knowledge, let alone respect for Inuit and our language even though they have live here or were born here,” she said. “As a society I thought we would have progressed more in this area. Clearly, we have a ways to go.”

She told The Labradorian she doesn’t expect to see the name of this ferry changed but wants the company that owns it, Labrador Marine Inc. to be more cognizant in future naming if it’s going to be Inuit related. The company, a division of the Woodward Group of Companies, has another new ferry coming online this year, servicing the north coast of Labrador.

The Labradorian contacted the Woodward Group of Companies about the name but did not receive a response as of press time.


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