Indigenous activist hopes to make political history in Nunavik riding
Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash would be first Indigenous woman elected to National Assembly
Running for office runs in the family for Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash.
A Cree activist, she is a health board employee and newspaper columnist from Waswanipi, in the Eeyou Istchee territory of central Quebec.
She’s also the daughter of Roméo Saganash, who served as the federal NDP MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou from 2011 to 2019 before deciding to not seek re-election.
Now Labrecque-Saganash, 27, hopes to follow in his political footsteps by seeking the Québec solidaire party nomination for the Ungava riding in Quebec’s next provincial election.
She’s currently the only candidate in the race, with a June 18 cutoff for nominations before a nominee is selected Aug. 3, a party representative said in an email.
In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Labrecque-Saganash said she learned a lot about politics and leadership from her father, following his work and travelling to Indigenous communities across northern Quebec.
“My social and political context was pretty much different from Quebeckers,” she said.
“I guess my parents taught me very early in life how to navigate systems and how, basically, to survive.”
The Ungava riding was held by the Parti Québécois from its creation in 1981 until 2014, when Liberal Jean Boucher flipped it red.
Four years later, Denis Lamothe of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) became his party’s first MNA for Ungava with 26.51 per cent of the vote, just 46 votes more than the runner-up.
“When we don’t feel represented, we don’t vote, so the very few non-Indigenous municipalities end up choosing the MP or the MNA for us, so that’s something that I would like to change,” Labrecque-Saganash said of the importance of having an Indigenous representative in that riding.
Quebec has had only a few Indigenous provincial politicians. One of the most recent to serve was Abitibi-Est Parti Québécois MNA Alexis Wawanoloath, from 2007 to 2008.
Labrecque-Saganash hopes to be the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the National Assembly, as well as the first Indigenous person to represent the Ungava riding in Quebec City.
“Young people around here definitely support having an Indigenous person representing the riding because it’s never really happened before, at least on the provincial level,” she said.
The 2022 Quebec provincial election is set to take place Oct. 3, or before, if the assembly is dissolved earlier. The CAQ, led by Premier François Legault, currently holds a 76-seat majority.