For the Record

Nunavut’s MP introduces herself in the Commons


Last week, Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell rose in the House of Commons to make her first speech. Here are some excerpts:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the honourable member for Simcoe-Grey.

I would like to congratulate you on your recent appointment as our deputy speaker. Thank you for this opportunity to speak in the House of Commons.

It is a great honour to be back in this Chamber. In 1975, I sat here in seat 113 as a student participating in a model Parliament, and I did not think then that I would be representing Nunavut 22 years later.

I am proud to be the first female in the history of my riding to sit in the House of Commons, and even more proud to be of Inuit descent. I thank my constituents for the privilege to represent them here at this crucial point in the future of Canada and Nunavut.

Nunavut covers 1,900,000 square kilometers of our country. That is 20 per cent of Canada. It spans three different time zones, and the population is roughly 25,000 people.

The land includes fjords, mountains and tundra. While I was traveling through the communities during my campaign, I couldn’t help thinking that it was truly a lesson in geography. My constituency goes north to the North Pole, west to the Alberta/BC border, south to James Bay, and east almost to Greenland. Nunavut has many international borders, including Russia, Denmark, and the United States.

Mining, tourism and country food

This vast and untouched area has great potential for a natural resource based economy. Each year, more exploration is going on in the north, particularly mineral exploration. Nunavut’s High Arctic hosts two lead and zinc mines.

This activity benefits northern communities by creating jobs for our population. We need continued support for sustainable development and training in this sector. Alongside this is the challenge of protecting the environment. We have to ensure our land remains natural and beautiful.

We need to promote the fisheries and processing of country food. This, along with tourism, are areas that create employment for the North and must be explored as valid industries.

One of the mandates of the Government of Nunavut is to staff its public service with a 50 per cent Inuit work force. This is a realistic goal, considering the Inuit population of Nunavut is over 80 per cent, and the working language will be Inuktitut.

As we speak, the government of Canada and the government of the Northwest Territories are training Inuit to staff Nunavut’s public service. Nunavut Arctic College has been instrumental in making education accessible and relevant to all Nunavut residents. Last week in Iqaluit, I witnessed the signing of a training agreement between the two governments that will ensure the employment targets are met.

Although governments are now training to staff the public service, there has to be mechanisms in place to keep our youth in school and to pursue post-secondary education. There are many barriers that stand in the way of our youth attaining higher education. One avenue to keep youth in school is through athletics. There needs to be more focus on partnering school and sports.

Cost of living

Mr. Speaker, 27 out of 28 Nunavut communities are coastal communities, but all are serviced only by air. There are no roads. Air freight is the only reliable way to ship goods and perishable food. Communities receive non-perishables, like fuel and construction materials, by sealift, many of them, only once a year.

Freight is the primary reason for the high cost of living in Nunavut. In many communities, a four-litre jug of milk costs 10 dollars, a loaf of white bread $2.69, a five-pound bag of potatoes $6.95, and a case of Coca-Cola will cost $41. With gas costing 71 cents a litre, it is very expensive for northern residents to buy gas so that they may go hunting for country food, which is still very much the main diet…

During my parents time, Inuit used fox tags and wooden sticks to trade for supplies. Today, my father has a VISA card and my mother can do banking with her Interac card, even though they do not speak English. The Inuit are very adaptable people, and I am proud of the progress we have made in such a short time…

Nunavut a priority

Mr. Speaker, establishing the Nunavut territory is my priority as Nunavut’s member of Parliament, but must also be a priority of this House. This is monumental. I urge my colleagues in this House to take this chance to participate in making history in Canada.

It will be by working together and helping each other that we will accomplish the task. This is the way the Inuit culture survived thousands of years in a harsh, and unforgiving climate. I was pleased to see this type of co-operation during the unfortunate crises during the floods in Quebec and in Manitoba.

Mr. Speaker, I want to close this speech by extending an invitation to those Members of this House and to those Canadians from across the country who have not yet had the privilege to see Nunavut, to come and visit us. I guarantee that their experience will be unforgettable.

Thank you. Mutna. Qujannamiik

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