In the most recent federal election, Nunavut elected a New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate. This is the first time in the history of the territory, that the NDP will represent this riding. The new Member of Parliament (MP) is Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, an Inuk woman originally from Baker Lake. Although this is her first time as a federally elected Member of Parliament, she is not a stranger to many of the challenges and struggles that her community and territory faces. Nor will this be the first time that she speaks on many of the issues. Ms. Qaqqaq will be representing the largest electoral district in Canada and the largest represented by a single legislator in the world.
Although Ms.Qaqqaq is younger, the work she has done speaks to the vast experience she has in working in and for her community. She has worked for Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national Inuit advocacy organization, Qulliq Energy Corporation, the Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated which is the territorial Inuit advocacy organization.
Ms. Qaqqaq ran against two other strong women candidates Megan Pizzo-Lyall for the Liberals and Leona Aglukkaq for the Conservatives. She will take over the seat from Hunter Tootoo, an MP that was originally a Liberal, but ended his term as an Independent after resigning from the cabinet and Liberal caucus after allegations of inappropriate behaviour with a female staffer.
Ms. Qaqqaq, when asked what her priorities would be as an MP, said, “basic human rights.” She went on to list some of the pressing issues that need to be dealt with in the North including boil water advisories, lowering the cost of living so people don’t have to choose between paying for food or rent, housing, and food security.
Once these issues have been dealt with, there are many other conversations she is interested in having including ones around healthcare, mental health, education and language. But the prime focus will remain on basic human rights.
Northern Mandate Letter
Although Ms. Qaqqaq is not a member of the party which is leading Canada she will have a large role to play when it comes to fulfilling some of the mandates which were laid out in the recent Throne Speech and Federal Cabinet Mandate Letters released earlier this month.
The Mandate Letter for the Minister of Northern Affairs, for example, includes a variety of issues specifically focused on Nunavut:
Support the construction and ongoing operation of a treatment facility in Nunavut, and
Continue work on the Nunavut Devolution Final Agreement
The Mandate Letter also specifically focuses on the co-development and implementation of an Inuit Nunangat policy, and the full implementation of the Inuit land claims agreements.
Ms. Qaqqaq will further have an opportunity to challenge the government on certain key northern issues, as she was chosen as critic for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) in the NDP shadow cabinet.
Youth and Women in Politics
Ms. Qaqqaq is passionate about bringing youth and women into politics. One of the programs she mentioned working for was the Northern Youth Abroad. This program, “seeks to foster leadership, cross-cultural awareness, individual career goals, and international citizenship in the youth of the North. The program promotes success in education by providing life-changing experiences through volunteer work and travel.”
Ms. Qaqqaq mentioned that, “That program was my stepping stone into a lot of the things that I have done.”
MP Qaqqaq uses social media to interact with her constituents. Facebook is one of the main communications tools still in Northern Canada and Ms. Qaqqaq has more than 9,000 people following her on that platform. She recently posted a video regarding the election of the new Speaker of the House of some of the issues she saw during the presentations made, specifically when it came to women and recognition of Indigenous rights.
During this video she also speaks about her opportunity to speak in the House of Commons, and how she focused her first comments on climate change and basic human rights in the territory. In the video Ms. Qaqqaq commented, “I look forward to getting into doing more facebook lives because I love talking to you guys.”