Northern affairs minister touts throne speech’s benefits for Nunavut

But Nunavut MP says throne speech fails Inuit

Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal describes the Sept. 23 throne speech as a return to public health fundamentals and a look forward on how to “build back better.” (File photo)

By Jim Bell

Updated on Sept. 28 10:12 a.m.

If you ask Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal to describe the gist of the Liberal government’s Sept. 23 throne speech, he’ll tell you it represents a return to public health fundamentals and a commitment to creating a better country.

“It was a combination of going back to the fundamentals about public health, as well as looking forward on how we build back better,” Vandal told Nunatsiaq News in an interview yesterday.

You can expect to hear the phrase “build back better” issuing from the mouths of Liberal politicians over and over again in the coming weeks and months.

It’s the marketing slogan that represents how the Liberal government plans to fix the many social inequities the pandemic has exposed, through a long list of programs to help workers, small-business people and marginalized groups.

National standards for elder care

One example is the federal government’s promise to create new national standards for long-term care homes, and to pass legislation that criminalizes the abuse of elders.

This comes in the wake of shocking reports exposing widespread neglect and abuse inside many southern Canadian long-term care homes earlier this year, as well as the many heart-rending deaths of seniors caused by the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in those facilities.

“That’s something that should never occur in Canada. This government is committed to ensure that it never occurs again,” Vandal said.

The federal commitment on national standards for elder care coincides with the Government of Nunavut’s recent decisions to start building bigger and higher-level extended-care homes for elders in Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit.

“Standards are incredibly important. They are going to be very strict to make sure that Canadians are protected. I’m sure they will be moved on in terms of a bill very quickly,” Vandal said.

And this week, Health Minister George Hickes said the pandemic influenced the GN’s decision to locate its care homes in regional centres, where health services are better.

As for Nunavut’s life-essential airline services, Vandal confirmed the federal government will continue to spend money to help struggling airlines operate through to the end of next year.

In August, Ottawa announced the first $75 million aimed at ensuring the continuation of essential air services. Vandal confirmed that more will come next year.

In that August news release, the federal government said that—if needed—they would make $174 million available for an additional 18 months.

The transformation of CERB

On the popular Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB, Vandal said he hopes the new employment insurance system that’s intended to replace CERB gets rolled out smoothly.

“We’re hoping it’s a positive transition, but of course it’s still to come. The point is that our government is committed to making sure that Canadians are taken care of throughout the pandemic.”

More than 9,000 applicants in Nunavut have received at least one payment under the CERB.

Yesterday, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough announced that EI, through a set of three programs, will continue to pay eligible unemployed workers a minimum of $500 a week—the same amount that CERB recipients have been receiving each week since March.

Those three EI programs, which are part of a bill tabled yesterday afternoon in the House of Commons, would be called the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

As for police and justice system reform, especially within the RCMP, Vandal said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair will likely act soon on police training and other issues.

“We know the whole issue of police training is an important one in Nunavut. We’re going to work through Bill Blair, the minister of public safety. We’re going to make investments to address the systemic inequities of the criminal justice system, and civilian oversight of our law enforcement agencies.”

And that will include the development of national standards for the use of force by police officers.

“That’s important. We’ve all seen the videos across Canada. We need national standards for the use of force.”

Throne speech fails Inuit, Nunavut MP says

However, the northern affairs critic for the New Democratic Party, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, unloaded on the Liberal government yesterday in the House of Commons in a blistering reply to the throne speech.

“The lack of basic human rights for Indigenous peoples results in death. Inuit are dying and have been since before this pandemic,” Qaqqaq said.

And Qaqqaq said she didn’t have high expectations for the throne speech anyway.

“Since the day I was born, Inuit have heard promises of a good life, of positivity, of being able to contribute to society in a healthy way, of having basic human rights—and we continue to have those promises broken,” she said.

Qaqqaq referred to her recent tour through the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions, where she focused on examining Nunavut’s appalling social housing conditions.

She said she met families who lost children to the foster care system due to their housing situation, elders forced to live with people who abuse them, and families who came home to find children dead by suicide.

But at the same time, the Liberal government has done little to help fix this situation, she said.

“His empty words and broken promises have not helped anyone in the North,” Qaqqaq said of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a media release issued today.

Those remarks stand in sharp contrast to a statement yesterday from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, whose board members work closely with members of the Liberal cabinet through the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.

“Inuit welcome the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to reconciliation,” the statement said.


The following sentence has been added to clarify the federal government’s intended support for air services: In that August news release, the federal government said that—if needed—they would make $174 million available for an additional 18 months.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Echo Chamber on

    As a person who voted for her, I find Qaqqaq’s analysis consistently simplistic. We can agree on the severity of the issues, but the approach to solutions and the solutions themselves must surely be found somewhere beyond an almost magical belief that the Liberals could wave a magic wand (or write a cheque or two) and the road to modernity and prosperity will unfold before us.

    • Posted by Fred on

      I agree that her lack of experience is really starting to show. Any politician should know that the Throne Speech is something like a strategic plan that outlines the areas that the government wants to work on, it does not show how they will do it. The how will come from the Budget speech from the finance minister and on the plans each department puts in place to reach the goals from the Throne Speech.

      • Posted by Retired Woke Olympian on

        Righteous pouting is not a thoughtful strategy

  2. Posted by Talk reality, M. Qaqqaq. West Nunavut. on

    1) Some people wreck a new house in a short time.
    2) Some people refuse to pay their rent.
    3) Some people won’t clean their house.
    4) Some people should consider birth control.
    5) Some people should have a diet of nourishment.
    So where on earth do you think the problems are coming
    from ?
    It is not the Govts. of Canada, past or present, who are doing
    this, it is certain people themselves.

  3. Posted by Dear M. P. Nunavut on

    If you are serious about helping the Nunavut housing problem
    then find a way to fairly allocate houses to people.
    It is always the dominant families who get their own way,
    which causes resentment in the communities.
    Go for it.

  4. Posted by Fresh Air on

    Mumilaaq is a breath of fresh air for Nunavut politics.

    I’ve watched for decades as supine Nunavut leaders grovelled at the feet of Ottawa, begging for another scrap. None dared criticize the Federal Government of the day, and they fell over each other praising Federal budgets that were objectively bad for Nunavut.

    Finally we have someone actually expressing the hopes and dreams of Nunavummiut.

    The Nunavut Cabinet hates is because it makes them look bad.

    Well-to-do upper-middle class Nunavummiut (see above comments) hate it because it pierces the carefully constructed narrative they maintain that they are not overseeing a system that keeps Inuit in desperate poverty.

    The Liberal Government hates it because suddenly they are dealing with someone who doesn’t pull their punches and isn’t part of the old boys club.

    Go Mumilaaq Go. You’ve garnered alot of respect among the electorate. To hell with the whiners, and keep your chin up.

    • Posted by A lot of air on

      I voted for her, but unlike you I am a little disappointed, yes there is a lot more expression from our new MP but also less teamwork and negotiation, her lack of experience is really showing and with the NDP supporting this throne speech How well did she do negotiating for Nunavut?
      I am hoping things will improve as she gets more experience.

      • Posted by Honestly, on

        How do you think her ‘lack of experience’ shows?

        Mumilaaq might be one of the best new MPs in all of Canada and is usually recognised as such by political types across Canada. Even international news agencies have commented on her election and her time in parliament so far.

        What expectations did people have of a young NDP politician who came out of nowhere to win, such that people are already disappointed? She’s already become a pillar of her party, given a shadow portfolio by the NDP, and has often turned a lot of heads with her insightful remarks.

        Seems like a big success for a young first-timer from the most far-flung riding in Canada, was she supposed to do more or something?

        • Posted by Hyperbole on

          “Mumilaaq might be one of the best new MPs in all of Canada…She’s already become a pillar of her party… Seems like a big success”
          This is a little over the top honestly. Can you explain what she is being recognized for? I really don’t see it.

  5. Posted by No Moniker on

    A response to ‘Fresh Air’

    “Well-to-do upper-middle class Nunavummiut… hate it because it pierces the carefully constructed narrative they maintain that they are not overseeing a system that keeps Inuit in desperate poverty.”

    A funny thing about narratives, the most effective ones aren’t necessarily true, yet they work well at explaining the world and at serving certain societal (or even personal) goals; often by an appeal to emotion mixed with elements of logic and morality.

    Take religion for example, for a long time it offered a story explaining the origins of the universe and a guide for how to live, all the way down to who you could sleep with and how to treat your slaves. Today, most serious people rely on narratives constructed within the scientific paradigm to explain cosmology and use philosophy to understand their ethics.
    According to the commentor above there is a large swath of upper middle-class Nunavummiut who support a “carefully constructed narrative… that keeps Inuit in poverty” (note this too is a narrative).
    Is this true? If so, what could that narrative be? In my opinion this is a false narrative, and a dangerous one.
    The author using a narrative of oppression built along class lines, a typical feature of socialist discourse in the 20th century. Granted, this doesn’t mean it’s not valid or is untrue, but it does beg a closer look. For example, this narrative seems to assume prosperity exists in a zero-sum universe, where what is good for one group always comes at a cost for another; that is, there is only so much pie and you having more means I have less. Through this lens all social and political interactions function within a dynamic of oppressor and oppressed; therefore, if you have less is to be understood that you are oppressed. Not only is this a simplistic understanding and fallacy in my opinion, it locks us all into an unwinnable battle where poverty is inevitable and inescapable.
    These are only my observations. I invite the author of this comment to expand on their comment.

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