About a month after announcing she will not run for re-election, the MP for Nunavut, an Inuk woman, delivered a powerful farewell speech about the racism she’s had to witness and endure while on the job.
“The reality is that this institution and the country has been created off the backs, trauma, and displacement of Indigenous people,” Mumilaaq Qaqqaq said. “Our history is stained with blood.”
The 27-year-old based in Iqaluit, Nunavut, is the first elected official to win the 40,000-person Nunavut riding under the left-leaning New Democrat Party banner since Nunavut was formalized as a territory in 1999.
In the 10-minute video, Qaqqaq details how Parliament security have profiled her, and how she’s had to give herself pep talks in elevators, or take pause in bathroom stalls to maintain composure.
“Every time I walk onto the House of Commons grounds, speak in these chambers, I'm reminded every step of the way I don't belong here. I have never felt safe or protected in my position,” Qaqqaq said.
She then discussed how she and other Inuit have had to learn tactics to survive systemic racism and colonialism, something her experience as an elected official reinforced.
“My life in Canada and especially through this experience has taught me many things: as a brown woman, do not move too quickly or suddenly, do not raise your voice, do not make a scene, maintain eye contact, and don't hide your hands,” Qaqqaq said.
“Every Inuk has survival mode.”
Her speech comes after the remains of 215 undocumented Indigenous children were found under a former residential school. The news reiterated what Indigenous peoples have been saying for decades about the trauma and abuses they’ve had to endure, again exposing how the government has repeatedly attempted to forcibly assimilate them.
The outgoing MP criticized the inaction of the federal government to address water and housing crises, forced displacement, and suicide in Indigenous communities across the country—even calling out those in power who pay lip service to social justice without implementing change.
“I’ve heard so many pretty words like reconciliation, diversity, and inclusion,” Qaqqaq said. “Let me be honest, brutally honest. Nice words with no action hurt when they are uttered by those with power.”
“It would be easier for me to be told that I am wrong and that you disagree, than to be told that I am right and I'm courageous, but there is no room in your budget for basic, basic human rights,” she said.
Qaqqaq also called out the federal government for “refusing to care” for the suicide epidemic plaguing Inuit, who have the highest suicide rates in the country. According to Statistics Canada, Inuit suicide rates are nine times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous people.
“Listen, believe us, and do something about it,” she said.
Qaqqaq has had to take leave from her duties as an MP twice, citing burnout and mental health after she went on a housing tour across Nunavut last fall. While she won’t seek re-election, she previously said she will continue to advocate for Nunavut until her term ends, including by pushing for Indigenous languages on election ballots.
“As long as these halls echo with empty promises instead of real action, I will not belong here,” she said, before she voiced her support for the NDP.
“Although I may not belong in this institution, I do belong with my party,” she said.
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