Nunavut New Democrats opt for youthful advocate of change

“I am fairly new and younger, so I have a fresh perspective”

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq is the NDP’s Nunavut candidate for the federal election. (Photo courtesy of Mumilaaq Qaqqaq)

By Thomas Rohner
Special to Nunatsiaq News

The New Democratic Party has announced its Nunavut candidate for the federal election: Mumilaaq Qaqqaq of Baker Lake.

Qaqqaq, 25, now resides in Iqaluit and has taken a leave from her position as an Inuit employment officer with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. to campaign.

In an interview, Qaqqaq said she always felt a strong disconnect with the federal parties that have held power, whether the Liberals or the Conservatives.

That’s why it’s time for Nunavut to shake things up, she said.

“Nunavut is so unique and our needs are so unique that things that haven’t been done before are going to have to be done at some point. We need to take chances and we need to understand that, just because something works for southern Canada doesn’t mean it’s going to work as effectively here,” Qaqqaq said in an interview earlier this week.

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq speaks to supporters at the launch of her campaign in Iqaluit on Thursday, Sept. 12. (Photo courtesy the NDP)

Last night, on Thursday, Sept. 12, Nunavut’s NDP electoral district association launched Qaqqaq’s campaign with an event at the Sylvia Grinnell Park pavilion.

About 40 people attended the event, according to organizers.

Qaqqaq is up against two other female Inuk candidates: Megan Pizzo-Lyall of Rankin Inlet, who is representing the Liberals, and veteran Nunavut politician Leona Aglukkaq, who is seeking to reclaim the riding for the Conservatives.

Douglas William Roy is the Green Party’s Nunavut candidate.

The election campaign officially began when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dissolved parliament Sept. 11.

“I am fairly new and younger, so I have a fresh perspective and I understand that things need to change in order for us to stop losing people unnecessarily to suicide,” said Qaqqaq, so far the youngest Nunavut candidate in this election.

Qaqqaq said her experience is more relevant than her age in this campaign.

She has worked for the Government of Nunavut, the Qulliq Energy Corp., Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and NTI, focusing on suicide prevention and human resources.

Qaqqaq’s vision for Nunavut is one in which suicide rates are the same or lower than in the rest of Canada, she said.

“Suicide is such a complex issue, there are a lot of things that need to be bettered to reduce that rate: housing, health care, mental health services, having activities to do, access to education. And reclaiming our identity and culture,” she said.

Qaqqaq said her priorities as Nunavut’s member of Parliament would be addressing the housing shortage, advocating for United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, to be put into Canadian law, and improving the communication between Nunavut and the federal government.

“I think there’s a huge barrier in communication between the federal government and communities in Nunavut … and being able to bridge that gap in communication is key to being able to advocate for housing, to advocate to have UNDRIP recommendations actually put into law,” she said.

Qaqqaq said one of her key skills is public speaking.

In 2017, under the name “Trina” Qaqqaq, she appeared in the House of Commons on International Women’s Day and received a standing ovation after she spoke about Nunavut’s suicide crisis.

Her experience in suicide prevention—which includes holding public and stakeholder workshops across Nunavut, as well as working alongside youth—is a key asset, she said.

And so too is her analytical ability to gather information and many perspectives in order to find a solution and plan, she added.

“More than anything I like to hear other people’s perspectives and input on everything … I’m good at listening, taking all the information I get and figuring out how we get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.”

Her experiences taught her how different Inuit organizations, the GN and the federal government need to cooperate, she said, adding that she is not afraid to be direct or say difficult things that need to be said.

“These are people’s lives we’re affecting. This isn’t just me standing in Parliament saying we need X, Y and Z. To be able to know the people in those communities and understand what their individual needs are, what the community’s needs are, and what the families’ needs are—that’s huge.”

One thing that separates her from the other candidates is her hands-on approach to work in communities, Qaqqaq said.

And the fact that she didn’t set her sights on political ambition—until the NDP approached her.

“It’s so much bigger than you and I sitting in this room. It’s about people in our territory, people in our communities and people struggling. But more importantly it’s about the strength and resilience of all the people in the territory.”

Nunavut’s MP influences not only the lives of Nunavummiut, but also Nunavut’s land and animals, Qaqqaq said.

“I’m very caring and very passionate and very willing to push boundaries and push lines to make sure that other individuals are very aware that this is our reality, and our reality is very different than those in southern Canada,” she said.

“I understand that we need to adapt to a modern world, but we do that best when we have a sense of our own identity and reclaiming our tradition and culture.… The things people in Nunavut face is my reality as well. And in order to change that we need to try things that we might not have before and I’m totally up for that. I’m excited for that chance.”

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(30) Comments:

  1. Posted by poll watcher on

    This young woman does not have a hope of winning of course, but this is still a good move for her and the NDP. The NDP can position themselves as the voice of youth and this young woman can gain valuable experience that she can put to good use 5 or 10 years from now when she is a mature grown up.

    What the heck, here is my prediction —

    Liberal Megan Pizzo-Lyall 39%
    Conservative Leona Aglukkaq 37%
    NDP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq 20%
    Unknown Green party person 3%
    Unknown PPC person 1%

    • Posted by Mature Inuk on

      I am an older Inuk and I’ve voted in every election since I was 18. Although this is candidate’s name is not familiar now, she has my attention and possibly my vote. I do remember being impressed by her Parliamentary speech. She’s an adult with 25 years of life experience. The Liberal and PC candidates are on the leash of their party leaders and haven’t said anything refreshing. And the Green candidate is who? and says what?

      • Posted by Steve L on

        Unless you run as an independent, you will march to the beat of the party’s drummer. It is a requirement to promote the party agenda or you don’t get the endorsement and funding. And these days, any indiscretion, past or present, will get you thrown under the bus in a heartbeat.
        As a former riding association president I can attest to the pressure put on the candidate and his organization to walk the walk and talk the talk, (or else!) I’ve even been told how to vote at conventions. And that is pretty well across the board for all parties.

  2. Posted by Suva? on

    Who is Megan Pizzo-Lyall? …. Your observation with your precentage just proves Liberal’s would vote for anything and any one.
    Alot of us Elders want Leona and we are supporting her all the way! She speaks Inuktut and Inuitnartut.

    • Posted by iRoll on

      Speaking Inuktitut doesn’t make Leona a better candidate and it certainly doesn’t make the conservatives a better party for Nunavut or Canada. Listen to Leona’s promises and ask yourself, why didn’t she deliver on those is her last long tenure? Because she can’t and won’t. She had her time, and now is time to move on.

    • Posted by george on

      you should read up a lot more on canadian federal politics.
      on a national level the parties policies and eventual legislation will affect Inuit, not whether the individual person speaks inuktituk. in this case, Leona will be very good at telling you in Inuktituk how badly the Cons will screw you over.

  3. Posted by george on

    Qaqqaq said one of her key skills is public speaking.
    Public speaking is one of the absolute bare minimums for public jobs.
    Might as well put “knows Microsoft Word” on your resume.

    • Posted by Herbie on

      Not true at all, public speaking is a tremendous skill and a vital asset in politics if it is combined with good rhetorical and logical skills.

      • Posted by what? on

        I know the topic she is talking about is heavy but watching the video, her public speaking isn’t professional. she don’t have the tough skin that she will need in order for her to represent Nunavut. A lot of people will pressure her and being a MP is tough. we need someone who will be professional when bringing tough and hard topics…..

        • Posted by True Story on

          Everyone has to learn somewhere and at some time, even the best of them, that’s just how it is.

          • Posted by what? on

            if she gets elected I don’t want a person who is “learning” to public speak to lead for us Nunavummiut. that’ll be a tough way for her to learn.

    • Posted by oh ima on

      Good to see nay Sayers and people that are too old and have regrets of not doing in their lives that they project their anger and resentments towards young people that have hope and want best for their communities. Just go and wither and eat your soup at the corner!

  4. Posted by Rainy fall day on

    Poll watcher, I think your comment is unfair about her chances of winning. It is this negative attitude that is exactly what young people do not need. I think we need to be more supportive and encouraging of young people who are engaging in public service, trying to replace the old guard and bringing new energy. Older, supposedly more mature politicians, are not necessarily more mature, as we see time and time again.

  5. Posted by Stephen Leyden on

    Just wanted to clarify Steve L is not me , nor do I share The commenters opinions on this story or any others. Should I choose to comment on nunatsiaq stories I will use my full name.

  6. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Congratulations to Mumilaaq for being nominated as the NDP candidate. It does take courage for a younger person to put their name forward for a political position, especially at the federal level. Knowing that you will be running against a former MP also makes it difficult.
    I would like to challenge the voters of Nunavut to listen to what each candidate has to say, and read their party platform. Look at the motivation as to why the person is running. We need someone who is passionate about bringing a better future to the people of Nunavut, and to Canada as a whole.
    Whether that person is Megan, Leona, or Mumilaaq is to be decided, and remember, in order to complain about whoever eventually wins you should really get out and vote.

  7. Posted by Old Inuk on

    I just want to say that I think this young woman has what it takes to make history. She is saying things in a new way and I think she will really fight for us here in Nunavut – why do we need another liberal?! another of the same?! I’m sick of the same! Im ready for my grandchildren to be proud of who they are. To know their land, there culture AND kNow science medicine and all that….. It is time for a change. Nunavut doesnt need to worry about it being NDP …WE NEED it to be a strong inuk who is going to fight for US and not just use it for free flights to ottawa. I believe in MUMILAAQ! YES!

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      While I agree 100% with your sentiments, what we need is a strong representative, it doesn’t matter what ethnic group he or she is. Inuit-Canadian, Somali-Canadian, or Pakistani-Canadian, it in no way matters, as long as he or she can do a better job representing us in Ottawa.

  8. Posted by Andy on

    Congratulations Mumilaaq. You are an inspiration to all, and I wish you luck.

  9. Posted by Lizzy Qatsiya on

    I am very proud and wish you all the best! If I lived in Nunavut still you would defintely have my vote. Time for a change!

  10. Posted by Peter Tookalook on

    I think she will get her fair share of votes, I think if she is elected she will make a big difference.

  11. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    It is a hard road to hoe running in an election. Before you even open your mouth there are people ready to jump on you at every turn. My hat is off to those who have the fortitude to run, It is also good to see new female faces and young faces at that as well. The younger generation needs to be stepping up and running for municipal. territorial/provincial and federal seats of government. Good luck to all!

  12. Posted by Putuguk on

    Good luck to this lady in the upcoming election. To me, there is nothing noteworthy about someone in their mid 20’s running for national office here in Nunavut.

    During the time of land claims negotiation, our representatives were around this age when they took up the heavy task of coming up with the Nunavut Agreement. Also, Peter Ittinuar, our first MP, was in his late 20’s when he was first elected. For this reason, I do not hold this candidate’s age as a factor either way. Way more important is what she says and does.

    What is new, and is probably why this story has an age angle to it, is that our view of young people has changed since those times. We are more likely to think we have not raised our kids right somehow. As a result, we tend to think young adults are not capable and that aspiring to these roles is almost too much for them.

    When Castro made a comment recently about Biden that seemed to be directed at his advanced age, the public drew a strong negative reaction. If it is like that for old people, why not young?

    We really need to get out of this mode of thinking and start using our youth to their full potential or Nunavut will be continually hamstrung.

  13. Posted by Youngen on

    Wither she’s 25 or 52, she has my vote. Its true we need to do stuff differently. Us Inuit are living in a 3rd world perspective; healthcare, mental health for all ages, transportation etc. I have heard of a quote, “we must learn to adapt in order to survive”. Except for the young men on Baffin region that use dog teams for hunting, way to go. Im only 24 and would cry if I were in her shoes, reading these comments about having a public speaking skill wont get you anywhere, think again.
    My point is young people, especially those born in the 90s have seen a drastic change. Although, it would be nice to see her have a full conversation with an elder. Way to go trina! Think about the IQ principles in the meantime 😉

    • Posted by Kinda wondering on

      Which IQ principles do you have in mind?

  14. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Wow it seems that both the NDP and the Liberals have thrown in the towel with respect to Nunavut by deciding to run inexperienced young candidates against a hardened veteran. It looks like Ms. Agluqqak and the Conservatives will be laughing all the way to the polls. Too bad

    • Posted by Francis Piugattuk on

      Seriously? You would rather vote in a former PM whose track record was pathetic especially for us northerners when their own party was in power? Presuming it would not be a repeat ? (Remember: HoC discussing NNI, hiding behind a newspaper among other instances while she was MP) Am hoping many will vote, but to be aware of which potential MP would best represent northern interests and concerns.

    • Posted by Times are a changin’ on

      A hardened veteran who out of Scheer contempt read the paper while the House of Common tried to discuss food prices in the North. You think her status as a “hardened veteran” makes her appealing to this constituency? It doesn’t. We’ve had enough of the same old faces and same old voices offering nothing new and getting nothing done. We just 4 years of that.

  15. Posted by Voter on

    Its great to see the younger generation putting their interests in politics, we need a change and have fresh ideas and energy.

    With that being said, my vote is for Megan, she is young but has a bit more experience then Mumilaaq, work and in politics, also the NDP polls are not great, NDP will probably come in third maybe forth.

  16. Posted by Peter Kootoo on

    Megan is experienced, but she is a member of a government that is corrupt and currently fighting indigenous children in court for their child welfare benefits. That Justin Trudeau is fighting a UN compensation order for fulfilling their own commitment to UNDRIP is shameful. And, there are 117 Canadian companies which currently appear on the World Bank’s list of 250 firms blacklisted from participating in projects around the world under the organization’s fraud and corruption policy. Justin Trudeau is a distinguished teller of falsehoods. I will be voting *strategically for Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and the NDP.

    • Posted by Peter Kootoo on

      I mean to say that Meagan is a candidate for the Liberal Party currrently in federal government and proven themselves ineffective in representing Nunavut and northern Canada in general. Let’s give Mumilaaq the chance to gain important experience in Ottawa with a party that has been fighting for ordinary people since Tommy Douglas’s time in the CCF-NDP. We all have health care thanks to Tommy and the CCF-NDP fighting the good fight on behalf of us all.

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