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Elisapie Pootoogook, Found Dead Near A Montreal Construction Site, Will Be Honoured Monday

A memorial, organized by a local shelter, is set to take place in Cabot Square.

Elisapie Pootoogook, Found Dead Near A Montreal Construction Site, Will Be Honoured Monday

A memorial for Elisapie Pootoogook, an Inuk woman who was found dead near a Montreal construction site, is set to take place on Monday.

Pootoogook was reportedly found dead on November 13 at the site of the former Montreal Children's Hospital, which is now a luxury condo development — a project that was initially slated to include social housing before the developer scrapped it in exchange for a $6 million fine.

Police reportedly did not suspect that Pootoogook was the victim of crime.

"Last week Elisapee was sharing laughs and special moments with other Inuit at Resilience. This week we are shocked by her tragic death," wrote Resilience Montreal in an Instagram post. The non-profit day shelter across from Cabot Square is organizing the memorial.

Nunatsiaq News reported that, according to Pootoogook's husband, her name is officially spelled "Elisapie" but she preferred "Elisapee."

Resilience Montreal director David Chapman told MTL Blog that Pootoogook lived in Salluit in Northern Quebec but came to Montreal several times in recent years seeking medical treatment, often spending time around Cabot Square.

"She was a really lovely lady," said Chapman, who knew Pootoogook for seven years and often facilitated her travel back to the north. "She would be on my phone in the Atwater metro [...] panhandling, and she would sing lullabies to her grandkids right in the middle of the metro. She was an endearing soul."

Chapman recalled that Pootoogook was known to try and stay warm in the metro, but that security often clears out the station due to complaints, leading people experiencing homelessness into the streets.

"The problem though is Elisapie's clothing would be very wet. She's in her early 60s now [with] very limited mobility and, as the temperatures get colder, it becomes dicey to be spending extended periods of time when you're wet out in the cold," he said.

"It appears that on this particular occasion, she made her way a little further than Cabot Square Park, just to the next property beside it."

Chapman said, in addition to honouring Pootoogook, the memorial brings to light a "sensibility that we really need to stop this kind of thing from happening and stop making the same excuses."

In January, a homeless Innu man named Raphaël André froze to death in a portable toilet in Montreal.

Chapman said the issue stems from a lack of shelters and low-cost housing, a change he said needs to come from citizens rather than solely from pointing fingers at the government and at institutions.

"Why can't a building be found for an Indigenous night shelter in this region? It's the same in any region, really. [...] Who wants to live next to and in the neighbourhood of a homeless shelter? Well, no one does. They all want it to be in someone else's neighbourhood. They all want some other neighbourhood to make the sacrifices," he said.

"This is a long, ongoing problem. It's continual [...] 'Not in my backyard' has been going on for a very, very long time."

The memorial for Pootoogook is scheduled for Monday, November 22 at 1 p.m. in Cabot Square. After the memorial, attendees are invited to leave flowers at the site where she died to honour her memory.

The Quebec Coroner's Office confirmed to MTL Blog that it is currently investigating the causes and circumstances of Pootoogook's death.