Nunavik’s MP needs to visit more often

Region’s residents deserve more than 2-hour stopover and a ‘see you in April’ from Bérubé

Sylvie Bérubé poses for a photo in her Parliament Hill office. (File photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Gord Howard

The federal riding that includes Nunavik is massive.

More than 1,500 kilometres separate the southern and northern tips of Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou, which stretches across a large swath of Quebec.

It requires real effort to reach Nunavik: There are few direct flights, and it’s very expensive. So are the hotel rooms once you get there.

Yet, none of that justifies MP Sylvie Bérubé’s decision to visit Nunavik exactly once in the past three years, since she was first elected as its member of Parliament in 2019.

At times, the COVID-19 pandemic, declared in March 2020, made travel difficult — and sometimes even impossible — but Nunavik began lifting its public health restrictions back in February.

People have been flying in and out all summer.

But Bérubé waited until Oct. 12 to make her first appearance, flying north out of Quebec City. And even that turned out to be a disappointment.

What was planned as a three-day visit to Kuujjuaq, Aupaluk and Salluit shrank to a one-day stop in Aupaluk — a two-hour pitstop that no one could have been satisfied with.

Constituents who Nunatsiaq News spoke with said the visit felt rushed. They said it was so brief that they didn’t have time to discuss many of their concerns with their MP.

“We were cut short as a community,” said Aupaluk Mayor David Angutinguak. “At the end, we did not have time to finish our comments or questions … they had to leave.”

But at least Aupaluk had two hours with Bérubé.

That’s more than people in Kuujjuaq or Salluit got after their stops were cancelled. Or those in Inukjuak or Kangirsuk, whose communities were never even on the list.

At this point, it’s not clear Bérubé understands the frustration northerners felt after her truncated visit.

“As I mentioned to them, I am there for them and they can contact me at my constituency offices. If no one contacts me, I cannot be their voice in Ottawa,” the MP told Nunatsiaq News later.

For her Nunavik constituents, ‘there’ means 1,000 kilometres or more away.

If they feel like they’re being ignored by her, can you blame them?

It’s not easy to reach Nunavik from Ottawa or from Bérubé’s home base in Val d’Or, but when it’s the area you were elected to represent in Parliament you have to find a way.

Sylvie Bérubé, as Nunavik’s only voice in Ottawa, needs to try a little harder to bridge that gap.

Telling residents she’s just a phone call away and that she will try to return in the springtime just isn’t good enough.

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