Lori Idlout presses Liberals on elder care — in Inuktitut

Nunavut MP addressed the lack of elder care services across the territory and called for federal support

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout took the opportunity to speak Inuktitut in the House of Commons for the first time on Friday, while pressing the Liberals on elder care in Nunavut. (Screenshot from ParlVU)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout spoke up on elder care while asking her first Inuktitut question in the House of Commons on Friday.

The NDP MP told Nunatsiaq News on Wednesday she was planning on speaking in Inuktitut pending the availability of an interpreter.

In Friday morning’s question period, she asked about the lack of elder care in Nunavut, and asked the Liberal government what it was going to do to help.

“Our elders from Nunavut are being exiled [and] removed from their families, from their homeland and from their communities because they cannot access care in the territory,” she said, speaking in Inuktitut, which was also simultaneously interpreted into English and French. Idlout added there have been “countless” promises made in the House of Commons but “little to no action” to help elders.

“Will the prime minister respect elders and the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee, and follow through on accelerating the construction on long term care facilities and seniors homes in Nunavut?” she asked.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not in attendance at question period this morning. According to his daily itinerary, he was meeting with Montreal mayor Valérie Plante, before heading west to visit areas affected by flooding in British Columbia.

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal responded to Idlout’s question, saying that he would work with her to resolve the issues elders continue to face.

“I am proud that I am the first-ever minister of northern affairs to give the attention to the infrastructure, the housing, the healthcare, the seniors,” he said.

This is not the first time the Liberals could not provide a clear answer to questions surrounding elder care. At his cabinet unveiling in October, Trudeau provided a similar response to Nunatsiaq News.

“We will continue to be there as a partner … with investments in infrastructure, in housing, in support for vulnerable seniors right across the territory, and indeed, across the country,” Trudeau said then.

Idlout tweeted that she was glad she had the opportunity to ask the question in her native language.

“I am proud that I was able to ask a question all in Inuktitut to advocate for elders from Nunavut,” she said.

Since October, groups in Nunavut have been petitioning for more elder support across the territory.

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(26) Comments:

  1. Posted by Binky the Doormat on

    Isn’t it great how Dan Vandal makes it all about himself? How lucky we are to have you, right Dan?

  2. Posted by HOC is not the LEG on

    If you want to be heard in the house of commons you’ll have to speak English. This isn’t the legislative assembly in iqaluit this is the national stage and this matters are very important. Stroking your ego by speaking a non-official language and having an interpreter speak for you seems like more of a publicity stunt than a serious attempt at getting the help we need in Nunavut.

    Our last Mp played these types of games and look where she ended up. Politics are serious and the livelihood of Nunavit is at stake

    • Posted by Sam on

      You realize your encouraging her assimilate right?
      She is speaking as a representative of Nunavut (84% Inuit)
      It’s not a game she is playing; she’s just an Inuk being an Inuk.
      Translation is available; the same way they translate for french speaking MPs

    • Posted by S on

      HOC, we gets what we elects.

      3,500 adults chose Idlout to represent us in a parliament that covers 38,000,000 other Canadians. Proportionately, already, Nunavimmiut receive double the funding from those other Canadians as other Canadians do. Are we spending those funds so well that we should receive more?

    • Posted by Siiiggghhh on

      Wonder how this will play as she has no right to an interpreter. It is about as meaningful as if someone spoke Hindi in the house – the difference being that Hindi speakers are far more numerous. Be interesting to see if here questions even appear in Hansard.

      Nunavut suffers from another representative who doesn’t understand how to advocate on our behalf.

    • Posted by MCenter on

      “Damn if you do, damn if you don’t”, it’s a first time Inuktitut is spoken in the HoC and it should be garnering grateful moment to commemorate and instill pride for an Ancient Peoples with its own ancient language and instead it is your dartboard. Making it a personal ego trip by you is pretentious and self-serving as it does your expression charging another person who is speaking for majority and not you, The Language Cop and Keyboard Hunter. Gee who peed in your cornflakes?

      • Posted by Huvaguuq on

        Peter Ittinuar was the first to speak Inuktitut in HOC, also as an NDP member. Later crossed the floor to join the Liberals; wonder why???

        • Posted by Center of Canada on

          @ HOC is not the LEG, House of Commons can provide translation upon request, although Inuktitut is not a national official language yet. It states in the Canadian Bill of Rights, 1960, c 44, Part 1 (d) freedom of speech, without discrimination. And you are discriminating, as you stated. It is not ego, but a right.

          • Posted by Need some interpretation on

            You don’t really understand laws, do you? Freedom of Speech without discrimination does not mean you’re free to speak whatever language you wish with translation provided for you.
            I like your comment about Inuktitut not being an official language “yet”. In a list of languages spoken by mother tongue in Canada, Inuktitut is 34th. It ranks in between Somali and Armenian.

  3. Posted by Pork Pie on

    I am truly embarrassed by the freak out session underway by so many (apparently) unilingual English speakers.

    Let it go..

    Show some respect… you may even get some in return

  4. Posted by delbert on

    Lori is promoting her heritage and culture. Good for her which she is entitled to do.

  5. Posted by Attention on

    Thank you, Lori, for drawing national attention to this issue.

  6. Posted by Represent on

    Elected by the people, speaking for the people in their language. Kudos on you Lori. Looking forward to see where this goes as. our Elders are being exiled and it needs to stop.

  7. Posted by Dave on

    “Will the prime minister respect elders and the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee, and follow through on accelerating the construction on long term care facilities and seniors homes in Nunavut?” she asked.
    OK, and after they are built, who will staff them?

    Google if you doubt me, every province in the country is experiencing severe shortages of nursing home workers and the job doesn’t pay well enough to recruit any amount of new staff. In today’s world, going to college to work in a seniors home makes as much sense as going to college to work in a daycare.

    Not enough day care workers or not enough teachers, you can send the kids home to their parents. Can’t do that with seniors though.

    Let’s be honest here. What provincial or territorial government has a worse reputation as an employer than the GN? Blame the Feds all you want. This is a GN responsibility and it won’t send well.

    • Posted by Silas on

      I don’t know if you have been checking the employment records but Nunavut has the highest unemployment rate. There are hundreds of Inuit who make excellent caretakers. There are trained caretakers in Baker Lake; they will have to train some in Rankin Inlet when the elder care Centre opens there.
      Behind closed doors is where the real work takes place, as long as Lori is working hard there then kudos to her for speaking an indigenous language that is long overdue in the HOC. Indigenous peoples have been neglected by those in power for too long while ALL immigrants take priority.

      • Posted by John K on

        I’ve been involved in facilitating training programs all over the Territory for years. I can attest to the consistent frustration of having 30 Inuit sign up to take a program to only have four people show up. FOR PAID TRAINING.

        We NEED to stop pretending that there is some glut of Inuk labour out there chomping at the bit to get to work. I can tell you there isn’t. We need to focus on education first and then we need to incentive locals to stay here. I’m sure it’s not a surprise to anyone that a lot of professionals leave the Territory once they have the skills to thrive in the south.

        • Posted by Silas on

          My response is the environment which is created makes a huge difference. The Nunavut Arctic College is at full capacity in Baker Lake. All classrooms are in use including the workshop. PASS is another popular program here. Mind you, it is mostly women. That does not discount the fact that it is full.
          I’ve been in the college for ten years now and this is the fullest it’s been and I believe it is all due to the environment that has been created by the lead person. Adult cultural programs are always popular, depending on who the instructor is.

        • Posted by Center of Canada on

          @ John K, while you’re frustration is 30 people sign up and only 4 show up, it can definitely be that the instructors attitude and behaviour affects the people who want training. The focus always is pointing the blame at Inuit, so that it is in your report, while it can definitely be causians instructors who lack understand of Inuit. You stated you have been in the territory for years now, and you should by now understand Inuit, and make strong recommendations.

          • Posted by Clown ? on

            This is comical, just flip the blame to the teacher. Of course that’s always the problem right? No, but I guess doing so helps you save face

          • Posted by NN Follower on

            It’s especially comical because “Centre of Canada” is essentially blaming John K for being a white instructor that doesn’t understand Inuit, while John K is, in fact, an Inuk.

  8. Posted by Bert Rose on

    While respecting Ms Idlout’s desire to promote Inuktut, perhaps making sure that the other members of the House of Commons might understand her points might have a bit more importance?

    • Posted by Ernie on

      Do you know what translators do, Bert?

  9. Posted by Will I Am on

    Our MP is supportive of Inuit self government.

    These people are our leaders.

  10. Posted by #1 Priority ? on

    Maybe the focus should be on the youth. The ones growing up in 2 bedroom houses with 20 people , unnoticed or ignored in the chaos, doomed to drop out of school because no one cares or supports them, food insecurity, lack of good role models, friends with same social and economic issues. Supposedly the future, yet the ones with the extremely high suicidal rates because other than token “support” gestures the territory has given when something horrible happens. Realize they do not vote yet and the #1 Priority of any politician is to get elected…

  11. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Excellent job of virtue signaling Ms. Idlout! Rather than focusing your efforts on addressing the needs of the 75 or so Nunavut elders currently living outside the territory you might be better served trying to get mental health supports for the 15,000 or so youth in the territory who are killing themselves in record numbers and dropping out of school at a rate of between 60 and 75%. But I guess they don’t really mater all that much in the realm inhabited by Ms. Idlout and her party.

    • Posted by The Old Mapper on

      Well said ! Totally agree. Ms Idlout needs to quit playing language and other games as her predecessor did and get down to business in the “language of business.” She is fluent in English. Get to work for your $185K per annum.


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