MP Sylvie Bérubé’s brief visit to Aupaluk on Wednesday was her first-ever trip to Nunavik. She was elected as the MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Perreault)

Aupaluk residents feel rushed, dissatisfied by Bérubé’s first Nunavik visit

Nunavik MP’s first trip to region Wednesday lasted just a few hours

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

MP Sylvie Bérubé’s short first visit to Nunavik has left some residents of the community she flew into and out of Wednesday unsatisfied with what she had to offer.

Bérubé was first elected as the Bloc Québécois MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou in 2019. It’s the third-largest riding in Canada behind Nunavut and Northwest Territories, but until this week she had never been to Nunavik.

Bérubé planned to visit in March 2020, but that fell through when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most traffic into the region.

Three years later, and a year after winning a second term in office, she set foot in Nunavik for the first time Wednesday for a short visit to Aupaluk, the smallest of the region’s 14 northern villages.

Bérubé and some of her parliamentary staff flew in on a charter flight from Quebec City late Wednesday morning. She met with Mayor David Angutinguak before attending a small community meeting at Tarsakallak School.

About two hours later, Bérubé was wheels up in her charter flight back to Quebec City — a one-day round-trip her staff said cost $13,546 plus tax.

“We were cut short as a community,” Angutinguak said. “At the end, we did not have time to finish our comments or questions … they had to leave.”

Angutinguak wasn’t alone in feeling snubbed by Bérubé.

Members of the Tarsakallak School community said the rushed visit didn’t allow them to show her some of the infrastructure problems in the village, such as an out-of-service hockey rink and mouldy buildings.

Adding to the rushed feeling, Angutinguak said there were communication barriers: Inuktitut speakers who wanted to talk with Bérubé needed their words translated first into English, then into French and back, just to have a conversation.

George-Louisa Eetook, who serves several community roles in Aupaluk involving justice and education, had several words to say about the visit — that it was irritating, irrelevant, unnecessary and it felt like a joke.

“It seems like we will never be represented properly when it comes to our issues in the North,” Eetook said.

“I have a lot to say, and yet we weren’t even given the decency to be heard at the very least.”

Bérubé said in a French interview Thursday morning that she was happy about the visit, and that she’s aware that people in Nunavik feel disconnected from her.

“I learned a lot,” she said.

“I appreciated being present there, and that’s what I explained: I really wanted to go before [Wednesday], but the pandemic got in the way.”

Late Thursday in an emailed French-language message to Nunatsiaq News, Bérubé responded to some of the criticism from Aupaluk residents.

She said she wanted to spend more time in the community but flight arrangement made that impossible. “I did the best I could,” she said.

The visit fulfilled her promise to go to Nunavik, she said, and she was appreciative of what she heard from the community despite the short stay.

She said she will follow up with federal and provincial officials on the local issues brought up by community members.

“As I mentioned to them, I am there for them and they can contact me at my constituency offices,” Bérubé wrote.

“If no one contacts me, I cannot be their voice in Ottawa.”

Last week, prior to her visit, Bérubé told Nunatsiaq News she was planning to spend three days in Nunavik, with overnight stays in Salluit and Kuujjuaq.

The following day, though, her staff confirmed the visit would be shortened to one day in Aupaluk due to difficulty finding accommodations for a longer stay.

Russ Johnson, a teacher who has been living in Aupaluk for three years, said he doesn’t buy COVID-19 as the reason Bérubé took three years to get there and then only stayed for part of a day.

After COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the spring and it became easier to enter Nunavik, he said that Bérubé’s office would tell him they were having trouble finding transportation and accommodation.

“I really felt like they wanted to get out of here as fast as possible … It was an in-and-out like you won’t believe,” Johnson said.

“I don’t think anybody here is particularly satisfied.”

Bérubé said she hopes to return to Nunavik in April for a longer visit with overnight stays in other communities. In the meantime, she said she promises to address the issues that were brought to her attention in Aupaluk.

“I will work for you, I’ll try to defend your points of view at the federal level, and if needed, I’m ready to defend them working with the province,” Bérubé said.

Johnson said he hoped the visit shows Nunavimmiut need to keep pressing their elected officials. He said he’ll continue emailing and calling Bérubé’s office, and he hopes other community members get involved in engaging with all levels of government.

“I’d just like to see more Inuit engaged in the democratic process, but I think that starts with the MPs that are in office currently, helping them to understand and pushing them to be more involved,” Johnson said.

“I’m going to keep calling them and keep on them, and tell them to get their butts back here and do their jobs.”

 

 

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Unreal on

    An unfortunate classic in the history of “out of touch” politicians. Does anyone think through their decisions anymore?

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  2. Posted by 867 on

    She’s got that “Get me outta here” look

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    • Posted by SARCASM on

      Did , the people of the BIG APPLE , roll out the red carpet and have a honor gaurd ?

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    • Posted by Will Turner on

      Or…”OMG!! Are we still on the planet, Earth?!!”

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  3. Posted by democracy on

    it sounds like people should vote for someone else and if they’re not satisfied with democracy form a lobby group. all most people do is complain but few do anything. this riding seems to get what it deserves.

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    • Posted by Ignorance on

      How ignorant without getting any facts, Nunavik voters are clumped together with the James bay Eeyou and the French speaking majority Abitibi areas (Rouyn-Noranda, Val d’or, etc) who outnumber and ALWAYS outvote the people of Nunavik by a large margin, get your head out of the sand and learn that this insensitive bigotry isn’t made for Nunavik, we deserve our own riding, considering that we have our own issues that our supposed reps don’t care to address, a 2 hr trip doesn’t do justice to our daily struggles, being that Nunavik takes up 1/3 of Quebec’s landmass

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      • Posted by M on

        I totally agree with Ignorance message. Even in provincial election it is made that nunavik will never be represented by an inuk or first nation person. It is not acceptable to let this happening. This said suggestion would be to remake the boundaries to have a person that is from first nations or inuit for the region here so they can make sure they are able to bring the needs of the population to Ottawa and create change. It looks like we are living a second time what is in the documentary named “So that you can stand”.

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  4. Posted by Shame on

    I don’t know what worse, that this so the first time she’s been there and had only a 2 hour visit, or that this is her second term and the people Keep electing her, or the bloc for being so arrogant to have a southerner represent nunavik that is obviously out of touch and just wants the pay cheque

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  5. Posted by Tulugaq on

    Awesome! The MP and her staff spent more time in an airplane than in the community! Colonial Canada at its best. It’s even worse when the MP is member of a party that deem to separate Quebec from Canada as a means of self determination. Inuit have the same rights plus the right to be respected and this trip is a complete failure.

    It reminds me of the circuit court that used to be called the Flying Circus, with touch & go in the communities and while everybody is anxious to leave. Isn’t it time to decolonize this country?

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    • Posted by How it looks from here on

      You’re observations are not necessarily wrong, but you always end with the same old cloud of smoke. Is it also time to explain what you alternate model will look like? Or are we to assume that it would be better just because ‘decolonize’?

  6. Posted by MP integrity on

    The way we have been railroaded into supporting the European fighting and with the dearth of critical analysis shown by our MPs more than any other issue is a lack of credibility across the board. These are intelligent elected members, a brief dig into the lead up to the fighting and why it has come to this is not beyond their grasp. To see all except possibly for the Green Party and the independent members submit to the pressure is glaring. There is much more going on than even the press is willing to speak of, a madness of possible Armageddon does not tip the scale. Our country’s parliamentary credibity has been shot.

  7. Posted by 65566 on

    It is a beginning, an invitation to our Makivik AGM would be a good follow up. Personal contact can’t be substituted by other means, more so since the pandemic which has thrown us for a loop.

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