Lori Idlout calls for mental health and housing support in Inuktitut House of Commons speech

Nunavut NDP MP says she feels she can work with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller on mutual goals

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout delivered her response to the throne speech in Inuktitut on Dec. 2 in the House of Commons. (Screenshot from ParlVu)

By Jeff Pelletier

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout called on the federal government to offer more housing and better mental health support in her home territory in her Inuktitut response to the throne speech Thursday in the House of Commons.

In what has, so far, been her most extensive speech in her first language, Idlout began by promising to be a voice in the house for all Nunavummiut, First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

She then spent a considerable amount of time speaking about the generational trauma caused by residential schools, and how many Indigenous people, especially in Nunavut, are experiencing a major mental health and suicide crisis.

“We suffered a lot, going through the residential school system,” she said in her speech. “The attempt to hide this colonial history has driven far too many First Nations, Métis and Inuit to addictions and too many, ultimately, to suicide.”

Idlout also described hearing “stories of heartbreak and hope” in Nunavut from people who are experiencing poverty, but also see a prosperous future. She called on the government to invest in housing in the North, especially for elders and gender-diverse people.

“Nunavummiut understand that there are incredible opportunities to make our communities stronger and a better place for the next generation,” she said.

“I would like to take the opportunity to work with members to look at our traditional, legal knowledge and philosophy of life, so that we can work together to solve our problems.”

As her speaking time ran out, she finished her remarks by calling on the government to approve the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Following her speech, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller was given the chance to either ask Idlout a question or provide a comment in response. Miller used his time to thank Idlout for sharing her remarks and thank the house’s interpreters for making it possible for Indigenous languages to be to be spoken and heard in parliament.

“I want to acknowledge the words that the member has stated,” Miller said. “I think her words speak for herself.”

In response to Miller, Idlout briefly rose again to thank him for his remarks. Idlout said that she feels she “can work very well with him,” and she hopes to work with all of the Liberal cabinet and members across party lines.

Idlout finished by encouraging all MPs to collaborate with Indigenous groups for mutual benefit.

“Members should listen to the indigenous organizations and work with them, changing policies if that can better their lives,” she said.

This speech marked the second time Idlout rose to speak in Inuktitut. On Nov. 26, she rose in question period to ask the Liberals to act on making elder care available across Nunavut.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by S on

    “Lori Idlout calls for mental health and housing support in Inuktitut House of Commons speech”

    Though I don’t agree with anything that Idlout has espoused, it seems she’s better suited, along with her speeches, for the Nunavut legislature

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    • Posted by Mark M. Koroi on

      It’s actually hard to find any region in the world more remote than Nunavut.
      Baffin Island has what – about 12,000 people total? Nunavut is so remote even COVID has been stamped out entirely – and it took that virus forever to get into Nunavut.
      Ms. Idlout addressing the “Legislative Assembly of Nunavut” would not be nearly as effective as the House of Commons on these important matters. Plus, that legislative body is nonpartisan.

  2. Posted by Wondering on

    When she speaks Inuktitut do all the MPs actually listen to what she’s saying? Do they listen on the ear piece by choice or is it mandatory to listen if they don’t understand the person speaking?
    Like, she was voted in and now she’s speaking in her language on the highest platform on deaf ears? I’m not racist here I’m Inuk too. Like if I wanted to get some help or teamwork from the feds at least speak in English and let them hear ur emotions and maybe then they’ll listen.
    Idk. Just wondering here and voicing my opinion. Only one person’s opinion.

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    • Posted by Disrespect of the Highest Order on

      Well, any interpretation would be out of kindness, it is not in any way required, the only languages that get that are official ones.

      I find her stunt to be incredibly disrespectful to the people of Nunavut. Why favour one of Nunavut’s languages? Where is the inuinnaqtun? Where is the French? She represents all of us, not just the Inuktitut speakers.

      She spreads divisiveness with her actions – represent all of the ethnic and language groups of Nunavut, thank you very much.

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      • Posted by Mark M. Koroi on

        I think French is one of the most beautiful languages and I hope she addresses her fellow legislators in French as well. That way she could be understood by millions around the world as as well as Canada.
        On pense a toi, Madame Idlout!

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      • Posted by Valentin Teresch on

        By your logic, then, speaking English shows disrespect of an even higher order to the Inuktut speaking majority?
        Please. Take issue with her policies or her party if you need to, but don’t waste your energy and these pixels on fabricated indignation.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      All MPs who are not fully bilingual are required to wear earpieces so that they can understand either the French or English translation of what is being said. Bilingual MPs are not required to wear an earpiece so I doubt Ms. Idlout got much traction speaking in Inuktut as only a small percentage of MPs would have understood what she was saying.

  3. Posted by Nutralaaq Hughes Lonsdale on

    Love it that she can speak freely in Inuktitut.. ajunngi! But we need to be true about serious issues that came from residential school. There were many negatively impacted but not all of us were. It’s not fair to us and many others when you put us into the same category. Residential school was a nice escape from my community because there were so many other homegrown ills that were happening such as sexual touching of minors from family or friends that were not appropriate and had no connection to residential schools. Just speak the truth for us all as we are not impacted by the legacy of residential schools

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    • Posted by Bert Rose on

      Thank you for acknowledging that for students there were also good experiences.

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  4. Posted by Yes on

    This is very nice to see, our MP speaking her mind about difficult topics, in her first language, AND expressing a willingness to work with others. That is what I hope to get from my MP. It is the main approach I have seen from Inuit since I have lived in Nunavut, in non-political working level contexts. It is an approach that is hard, takes time, courage and patience, but I think it works when the audience is willing to listen and act, and I think the audience is more and more willing to do so, even if imperfectly…

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  5. Posted by Lost in Translation on

    Anybody that has listened to the English translation of MLAs speaking Inuktitut in Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly will understand that, although Lori speaking Inuktitut in the House may seem like a good idea, it is not.

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  6. Posted by Mark M. Koroi on

    The suicide rate among the Inuit of the North – especially among young females – are among the highest of any demographic group in the world.
    Substance abuse and mental illness rates are also high among the Inuit.
    I do not believe anyone seriously disputes these facts and I would hope that this situation will be considered by all MPs to be a national health emergency that should be addressed with all due haste and attention.

  7. Posted by Drop the Inuktitut issue on

    Aren’t we getting tired of the language debate? I do not agree with everything that Lori represents nor would I have voted for her, but I strongly agree with her right to speak in a language that existed on this continent long before English, French or the Dominion of Canada. Stop making this about spoken language and start making this about the issues she has put forward. It’s a refreshing change from the social media ramblings of her predecessor. I think Lori Idlout may be what Nunavut needs right now.

  8. Posted by monthy sling on

    Nothing is going to happen, Feds and the Provinces like to keep their thumps pressure to keep Indigenous of making useful decisions, how else are you going to keep us under control? just enough to keep use from starving….

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