Government of Canada and Inuit Mark Joint Ownership of Franklin Artifacts in Nunavut

News release

Governments of Canada and the United Kingdom and the Inuit Heritage Trust Gather in Gjoa Haven
September 10, 2018                  Gjoa Haven, Nunavut                      Parks Canada Agency
For the very first time since the 1845 Franklin Expedition ship wrecks were discovered, Canadian and Inuit representatives joined British officials yesterday at the final resting place of the HMS Erebus in the Arctic.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, coordinated the delegation, which included Inuit Guardians who, in cooperation with Parks Canada, are responsible for monitoring the national historic site, and British Deputy High Commissioner to Canada, Mr. David Reed.
The delegation also visited with Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team aboard the Agency’s newest research vessel, RV David Thompson. Parks Canada’s ongoing investigation of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, in collaboration with Inuit, will be one of the largest and most complex underwater archaeological undertakings in Canadian history. Parks Canada experts anticipate that the thousands of artifacts remaining on the two shipwrecks - which may include written documents - will help further unravel the mystery of the Franklin Expedition.
Earlier this year, the Government of the United Kingdom gifted Canada all the undiscovered artifacts from the Franklin wreck sites. With this gift, the Franklin artifacts are owned by the Government of Canada and Inuit trough Parks Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust. During the visit to Nunavut, Minister McKenna presented the transfer of deed from the Government of the United Kingdom to Canada to the Inuit Heritage Trust.
Minister McKenna and Mr. Reed had the opportunity as part of the trip to mark the transfer of deed with local community members in Cambridge Bay and then in Gjoa Haven – the community nearest to the site of the wrecks.

Inuit are an integral part of the Franklin story. They were first-hand witnesses to the Franklin Expedition, and they helped contribute to the search for the lost vessels over the ensuing years. In 2014, Inuit knowledge helped the Government of Canada and other partners finally discover the wreck of the HMS Erebus. The location of the second ship was discovered in 2016 as part of this multilateral partnership. 


“I am honoured to be in Nunavut to mark joint ownership of the Franklin artifacts between Inuit and the Government of Canada. I wish to thank the United Kingdom for the exceptional and historic gift of all yet to be discovered artifacts. It is important to me that we share the story of the Franklin shipwrecks and the important role that Inuit have played in their discovery from Nunavut. The Government of Canada is deeply committed to managing the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in close collaboration with Inuit. Our goal is that this strong partnership will bring a long-term and beneficial legacy to Inuit.” 

The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“The Inuit Heritage Trust is very pleased to celebrate in Nunavut the historic gift from the United Kingdom. Inuit are now joint owners of all remaining artifacts from the Franklin wrecks and we look forward to working with Parks Canada to conserve and present these important pieces of Inuit and Canada’s history.”
Mr. William Beveridge
Inuit Heritage Trust

“Following the UK's gift of the historic Franklin Wrecks to the Canadian government and Inuit community earlier this year, it is a great privilege to be able to visit the final resting site of HMS Erebus and to meet with members of the local Inuit communities whose knowledge of the area played such a pivotal role in locating both HMS Erebus and Terror. We look forward to the results of the exciting work Parks Canada and the Inuit community are about to embark on as it will form the long-awaited next chapter in this 173 year-old journey which continues to fascinate those on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Mr. David Reed
British Deputy High Commissioner to Canada

Quick facts

  • The locations of the Franklin Expedition vessels had been a mystery for over 160 years, after Sir John Franklin and his crew went missing in 1847-1848 while searching for a Northwest Passage.

  • The Franklin Interim Advisory Committee, comprised of community members and representatives from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Inuit Heritage Trust, Government of Nunavut and the heritage and tourism industry, advises on the management of the wrecks until an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement is finalized between Parks Canada and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

  • The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site – the first cooperatively managed national historic site in Nunavut. HMS Terror was added to the historic site in 2017, ensuring legal protection for the wreck site under the Canada National Parks Act. The wreck of HMS Erebus was added to the National Historic Sites of Canada Order in 2015.

  • The sites of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are not open to the public at this time and a permit is required to enter the protected areas; however, Parks Canada and the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee are working to develop visitor experience activities that support the long-term protection of both wreck sites while sharing these remarkable discoveries with Canadians and the world.

  • The United Kingdom will retain the 65 artifacts already recovered from HMS Erebus by Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team as a representative sample of their importance and symbolism.

Associated links


Caroline Thériault
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency

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