Qaqqaq talks workplace racism in farewell speech

‘I am reminded every step of the way I do not belong here,’ says Nunavut’s MP in House of Commons

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq gave her farewell speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday, speaking out about being racially profiled by security at work. (Screenshot courtesy of House of Commons/ParlVU)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq said she “never felt safe” during her time as Nunavut’s MP and accused the federal government of refusing to provide Inuit with basic human rights in the House of Commons Tuesday night.

In what she called her farewell speech, the Nunavut MP said she has been racially profiled at work and has had security staff jog after her and “nearly” put their hands on her.

“I am reminded every step of the way I do not belong here,” she said to her colleagues.

Qaqqaq announced last month she is not seeking re-election, after originally saying she would run again, about two months prior.

She said that young, marginalized people like her who decide to run for office face huge barriers, like hearing that they aren’t experienced enough for the job.

“Women have been told to sit pretty and listen,” she said.

“Disabled individuals have been shown they are not even worth the conversation.”

She said it is possible to reduce these barriers, but there is a refusal and unwillingness in the House of Commons to do it.

A recurring theme in Qaqqaq’s speech was the federal government’s unwillingness to provide basic human rights to Inuit.

“People in power have choices and consistently choose priorities that uphold systems of oppression, leaving babies sick in mouldy homes and parents missing their passed-on children because these powerful individuals do not think change is worth the money,” she said.

Qaqqaq spoke about women and girls who continue to go missing, children continually being taken into foster care “without regard for their well-being” and the suicide epidemic in the territory.

“Inuit kill themselves at the highest rate in the country,” she said, “and this institution refuses to care.”

Qaqqaq said that despite being called courageous, brave and strong, and hearing “pretty words” like reconciliation, diversity and inclusion, saying these things with no action to back it all up hurts.

“Maybe it is impossible for ministers to understand what we go through every day, but I am urging them and telling them to listen to us, believe us and do something about it,” she said.

In her remaining time in Parliament, Qaqqaq says she will continue to focus on housing, as she has since she was elected in 2019.

Earlier this year, she released a report on the “deplorable” housing conditions Inuit live in.

The report was based on a three-week housing tour. After that tour, Qaqqaq took a leave two-month of absence from her role as MP, citing anxiety, depression and extreme burnout resulting from what she saw. She later took another health-related leave for two weeks in April.

Recently, Qaqqaq has been outspoken about other issues like justice for residential school survivors and the importance of accounting for Inuit interests and concerns as Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. pursues an expansion at its Mary River iron mine, located on north Baffin Island.

On Monday, she tabled a private member’s bill to get Indigenous languages included on voter ballots in the next federal election.

So far, the NDP in Nunavut has not selected a new candidate for the territory, according to Charlotte MacLeod, the press secretary with the NDP caucus.

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(43) Comments:

  1. Posted by You Can’t Just Say Stuff on

    “Disabled individuals have been shown they are not even worth the conversation.”
    Guess somebody should tell The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and the Member of Parliament for Delta, that she’s not even worth the conversation.
    Kent Hehr, former Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre as well as holding two Cabinet positions, I guess also wasn’t worth the conversation.
    Manon Perreault, Marlene Jennings, Steven Fletcher, Diane Finley. They too, were never worth the conversation.
    “Women have been told to sit pretty and listen”.
    Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, does not sit pretty and listen.
    18 of 37 Cabinet Ministers are women. There are literally 100 female Members of Parliament.

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      Thank you for putting that together. This is the exact thing I mean when I bring up cognitive distortions. The problem is too many people uncritically accept these dated cliches because they identify with Mumilaaq, or simply trust her judgement.

      “Women are told to sit pretty” … bullshit they are, Mumilaaq.

      To me it seems obvious that her online tribe is her real audience, and everything she says here is meant to advertise her victimhood and martyrdom to them.

      I suppose she wants to ensure a timeless place in their memory and imagination.

      • Posted by More thoughts – No Moniker pt 2 on

        At a subconscious level what matters to an “idea tribe” is the long term viability of their meme complex (memetics via Dawkins, 1974, not internet memes) which is to say the survival and proliferation of their ideas, or paradigm–the world hinges on an axis between oppressed and oppressor. This is meant as a critique of an entire system which needs to be overthrown and replaced… but with what? What does their utopia look like?

        This is why some people argue the modern progressive movement is an expression of cultural Marxism (Jordan Peterson does this). Today, however, race replaces class as the focus and center of change and as the underclass in the historical dialectic. Knowing this, any interpretation of racial dynamics, and for that matter any group that can be called ‘marginalized’ (women, for example… who are told to sit pretty) must be understood in terms of its ongoing oppression, which will never be rectified under the current power structures: patriarchy, colonialism, etc… these terms replace the bourgeoisie of Marxism.

        This basic structure has permeated sociological analysis for decades, though it has been invigorated recently by switching out class for race, or if you want, marginalized becomes the new ‘class’.

    • Posted by Topper Sundquist on

      Tell us you didn’t understand her speech without saying you didn’t understand her speech.

      • Posted by Oh Gosh on

        Pretend to say something interesting and profound, without doing either.

    • Posted by It’s all about the approach on

      Minister Carla Qualtrough has degrees in political science and law. She has worked as a lawyer. She did these things and many others in spite of being visually impaired since birth. She has won 7 medals as a para-olympian.
      Kent Hehr was a student athlete before being shot and becoming a C5 quadriplegic. He is paralyzed from the chest down. In spite of this he became a lawyer and was elected both provincially and federally. He held two federal Cabinet portfolios.
      Chrystia Freeland is the power behind Justin Trudeau and will likely succeed him as leader of the federal Liberal party. Someday she will likely become the 2nd woman to be Prime Minister of Canada.
      These people accomplished things before becoming members of parliament. They, too, saw problems. But they also developed solutions and worked to get other people to suppot their solutions. They did not just say “fix this”.

    • Posted by Observer on

      Because it’s easier to say criticism is a result of whatever group or groups you are a member of rather than admit that no, sometimes it’s just you. Doing so demands a level of self-assessment and self-awareness that Qaqqaq has not demonstrated she’s capable of.

  2. Posted by Unfortunate on

    It’s unfortunate that Mumilaaq has accomplished so little and only further diminished herself since returning from her leave.

    I say its unfortunate because she has done significant damage to any future young candidates. Nunavut’s voter base is likely to favour a more experienced candidate in the future after the non-performance of Mumilaaq. This damages the chances significantly of potential young candidates that would perform well.

    She went in and it was a great sign for youth to have representation in office only to destroy it and make a mockery out of the position on the way out by just sewing together a bunch of rhetoric.

    I just can’t help but feel bad for the young hopefuls those that have to follow her footsteps. The damage she has done is going to take likely take several election cycles or more to fix.

    • Posted by John Boulter on

      I didn’t see or hear the original speech, but did see her interviewed on CTV June 17.
      What I saw was drama, emotion, rhetoric, innuendo, and her personal feelings, but almost no factual details or specific incidents. And the interviewer went along with that, letting her off so easily, even inviting her back for more of the same. But that’s the hallmark of Canadian TV news; they think we want drama and emotion rather than hard facts. So I get factual news from BBC, TeleSur, France 24, and RT America. John B, Ottawa

  3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    I won’t even comment on the garbage she just spewed in the house and all over social media. i have been to the Parliament buildings many times and I have never seen a MP regardless of colour, ethnicity, ability, religion etc…. ever disrespected by security or other staffers for that matter. All I can really say is thank God this has finally come to an end.

    • Posted by Puzzled on

      Is this going to be like the never ending Elton John farewell tour? Or is this really her last speech? I don’t believe we have heard the last of this.

  4. Posted by Apology on

    For all our female parliamentary members I apologize on bahalf of our MP. We know you work just as hard and bring influence to the Canadian government and we appreciate it.

    For all the foster parents out there giving up their time to help children in need I apologize on behalf of our MP. Nunavut is better because of your helping hands.

    Our MP would rather create hate and toss everyone under the bus before admitting she perhaps needs help and is over her head which there’s no shame in.

    Just an auful exit speech in wicked attempt to create further divide.

  5. Posted by Just Failed Kindergarten on

    Ask not what your can do for your constituents, ask what the federal institution can do for you.

  6. Posted by Jeff on

    The MP makes some good points. Being Aboriginal and/or a person of colour in Canada is a strike against you. I am Inuit but white as snow & when my fellow darker Inuit friends & I would go to shops/pubs/restos/malls, the service & attention that my friends would get vs. myself was completely different. Utterly shocking! Plus, being white-skinned, some non-aboriginal people would speak very openly to me about their feelings towards Aboriginal people. It wasn’t flattering. So I commend the MP for speaking her mind about her personal experiences, but the items she brings up are issues that are already known by most Aboriginal peoples; and what we need now is a solution going forward if we ever hope to stamp out racial profiling and discrimination. All the best to the MP in her future.

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      It’s probably true that she makes some good points, she unfortunately drowns those out with obvious half truths and arguments that don’t correspond to reality.

    • Posted by Fight for Representation on

      Hey Jeff, I’m a white guy and I definitely agree with you about being treated, I guess it would say more seriously, in establishments than my darker skinned friends. However, like you said, these issues are well-known.
      Do you not think it would be much more inspiring to young Inuit, instead of saying “I do not belong here”, to say “I do belong here! And I will fight for proper representation for my constituents, even if I am not treated the same every step of the way.”?

  7. Posted by Thomasie Kalluk on

    I watched Mumilaaq speech. I was ashamed. In this role she is actually privileged. She is simply looking for snippets that get a reaction on twitter. I wonder if she realizes that she was elected to represent all Nunavut Residents. Also she is there to represent all businesses, local governments, and the territory as a whole. I have never seen her offer a solution or an idea. Maybe she could have suggested 30 million dollars a year per community for housing. Maybe she could have suggested ON The Land Healing Programs. Perhaps a new parenting program to empower parents to keep their childern. Come on we all deserve more. The election can not come soon enough. Lena would be better……we can do better.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      She cant suggest solutions because then her all amazing NDP would have to back up that talk with ways they could make that work. and if they every had any real power and not just critize they would have to (well should) follow through. But she is towing the party line right to the end and will not put any commitment on the NDP. Though she says they would do better.

  8. Posted by Joy May on

    She is clearly suffering, and I wish her the best. But she lacks the maturity, poise, and skill for this serious job. Her pious farewell rant was filled with too many half-truths and outrageous exaggerations to take anything she said seriously. “Woman are told to sit pretty”. Right, tell that to Leona Aglukkaq who held four ministerial portfolios under Harper. Sheesh.

    Qaqqaq’s sanctimonious diatribe reinforces a very poor message about the NDP, that it is more interested in empty virtue signalling than in doing the hard work of actually governing. Which social media personality will replace Qaqqaq as the next NDP “star”? No wonder the Prime Minister is eyeing a fall election.

    I don’t want to sound harsh because when I was 26 I was certainly not ready to be an MP either. But then, I probably wouldn’t have tried to torch the HOC on my way out the door.

  9. Posted by It’s time on

    I guess she proved her ‘Inukness’.

  10. Posted by Sammy on

    MQ, you seem so angry at everything. Playing the blame game and pushing the racist or misogynistic narrative is not helping the reconciliation efforts. I hope with time you recognize how you were part of the problem by stoking the colonial tensions that we’re trying to put behind us.
    Good luck to you.

  11. Posted by What a joke! on

    Nunavut’s worst MP ever.
    She managed to be even less effective than Hunter Tootoo but twice as sanctimonious.
    At least she supplied entertainment for Iqaluit’s eight dollar latte crowd.
    The rest of us were just stuck cringing as our needs and phone calls went ignored and our MP cruised on choking sanctimony and childish status seeking.

  12. Posted by Thomas Aggark on

    So true, Basic human rights, discrimination. North is basically taking over culture barriers, it is a place like rest of native countries where it relies on it’s people to support it people.

  13. Posted by articrick on

    Boy oh boy, she just missed that band wagon by years, better if she just stays quiet till she’s done as an MP. Her attitude is toxic. QQ, if you want to help Nunavut in your future endeavors, please stay out on Nunavut politics.

  14. Posted by Hmm.. on

    Hmm.. mildly interesting.

    Acting out of emotion instead of professionalism. I do hope that someone young can take this as a learning experience and tackle her position one day. It’s sad to think that this could possibly ruin youth in politics. You cannot just run for a position and go into hiding once you think you’ve deserved a break. Just visiting communities to see the housing situation got nothing done. You should’ve sent someone else to go record and document. Work isn’t suppose to be a holiday. Have them report back to you.

    No one can take you seriously if you cannot take the job seriously. You sit and report to your superiors on what was reported to you, and your ideas on how to fix it should and would be heard. You cannot ask them to fix it for you. You’re elected to find solutions.

    As for being inuk and feeling the prejudice, it happens to every single one of us. Those who claim it doesn’t happen are in total denial. Once they find out you’re a white skinned Inuk, that seed has sprouted into a tree. Darker skinned inuit? That tree is ready for chopping.

    As for the rest of her complaints.. people calling those half truths are beyond me.. those are blatant lies.

    I’m sorry but how did Nunavut elect her? How do any of our leaders get elected? It’s like they’re all in it for the money and the clout. Not just with the new age, if you all haven’t noticed, but it’s with almost every single one of these people elected into any and all positions. Looks like we build a system design to fail ourselves. Time to start claiming responsibility.

  15. Posted by Valentin Teresch on

    Here’s the problem in a nutshell. Being a Member of Parliament is a tough, complicated job. Like any other job, to do it well requires:
    – specific skills (great personal and professional communicator in Inuktut and English, policy analysis, planning, negotiation, creating consensus, etc) ,
    – knowledge (the actual workings and procedures of the Parliamentary system, the powers and authorities of the houses, members, ministers, bureaucracy, etc.),
    – in depth work experience, including a strong network of trusted advisors, and a background in the working environments most affected by government (e.g., government itself, business or the implementation organizations) and SOME subject matter expertise in their chosen area
    – attitudes, including an incredible appetite and capacity for work, serious self-discipline, flexibility, and the capacity to work within a party while staying true to your own passion and vision.

    I don’t know the incumbent personally, so I can’t and won’t comment on her suitability. But instead of simply looking for “fresh faces” for the sake of change, it might be wise for voters to ask themselves – if I were HIRING someone for this position, how well would they score in terms of their ACTUAL experience, skills, and knowledge?

  16. Posted by Uniformed on

    Just another excuse that she got nothing done during her term. Leona and Nancy did pretty good job to just ‘sit and look pretty.’ No new funding for housing, health care, education and many other problems we face as Nunavummiut. I don’t think she realized that she represented all of Nunavummiut, not just Inuit. If she is worried about Inuit specific issues, she should run for NTI or ITK. She was more of an activist, not a politician, not a good combination.

  17. Posted by Janice on

    I’ve been reading the comments here, and also in a similar article in the Globe and Mail. Your comments seem to be more open and honest, and in a couple of cases, have a really interesting analysis.

    In the tread on the G&M, there are some ignorant comments, but most are not. What is also interesting is that comments very similar to ones I am reading here are being criticized in the G&M (and others perhaps not making it passed the reviewers). Also, I don’t think anyone would dare say in the G&M comments that she is playing for her “on-line tribe”, or point out other Nunavut who have not Tootoo, Aglukkaq, and Yvonne Jones, or point other women, or people with profound disabilities as examples to contradict Ms Qaqqaq.

    I’m glad I came here and read your comments. Thank you. It strikes me that we could learn a lot by talking to each other rather than about one another.

    • Posted by Pangloss on

      I haven’t read the G&M comments on this, so I can’t speak to those but have occasionally read comments on other stories related to Nunavut in national papers. Rarely do they say anything insightful or even proximate to the realities of life here.

      As for our MP, as her constituents and those who voted for her, we are probably less likely to be moved by bridge burning and angry diatribes or to see those through rose coloured spectacles.

  18. Posted by B Aglukark on

    There is a huge difference between thinking and making decisions using your brain vs. using the colour of my our skin. Positive-beneficial-useful results are few and far between when using the latter in.

  19. Posted by Northern Guy on

    “I don’t belong here” dang straight you don’t belong Ms. Qaqqaq! But it has nothing to do with your race and everything to do with the incredibly shallow and inept way that you have handled yourself since becoming MP. Time to grow up.

  20. Posted by Go Liberal QQ on

    Qaqaq might do better as a liberal. She would still be trolled but at least she would be liberal.

  21. Posted by Truestory on

    Become a politician. See if it’s easy job. Instead of posting negatives posts, take the matter into your own hands and see if you can do better.

    • Posted by Trdhammer on

      No one believes it is an easy job.
      It is a very hard job!
      That is why we can no longer elect people without the experience, wisdom, knowledge, or resilience to do it properly, or look what we got.
      What is Nunavut doing to develop the next generation of leaders to represent us. This isn’t going to magically happen.
      It wasnt fair to MQ or to Nunavummiut to send her to Ottawa when she so clearly didn’t have the tools to be successful.

  22. Posted by Moving forward on

    I’m saddened that she would play the racist card against the HOC as the reason for not seeking re-election. Honesty is always the best policy and the truth is you knew Nunaviummiut would rel-elect you and that’s the real reason here I hope she takes the time to heal, so much anger build up and it’s sad to watch.I wish her well. It just pains me that Nunavut is taking steps backward instead of forward on the National stage.

  23. Posted by Inconsistent on

    Very sad ending. The only accomplishment was outing Yvonne Jones as a non Inuk. (MP’s opinion)
    Its very sad that the MP takes the opportunity to burn her bridge, she went into a burning building because of her own ignorance and lack of understanding how to deal with the heat in the kitchen. Many great women have walked the hall of that burning building and had not suffered the same issues because they were mature individuals. The MP made a decision to go into a job as an MP probably with dreams of sunshine and roses everyday. The challenges are always going to be there it what it takes to run the country.
    The MP’s failure is supposed to be sucked up as everyone else was the problem while she did absolutely nothing to bring solutions to help solve the issues of the territory. You can’t just sit and cry and expect everything to get fixed because you cry. You have to fight for what you believe in and work your ass off to bring solutions that will work. For this the MP did nothing for Nunavut but set it back. Between this MP and the Previous MP the territory is set back, so many lost opportunities gone down the drain by insecure people with personal addictions and issues.
    Nunavut needs to remember that come election time it is time to fight the federal government and push for what is needed instead of whining about it.
    My question to the MP would be, why would you hope that the person that follows you is the same, ” a female Inuk woman”. From your experience the stage is ugly but you invite another Inuk female to do the same. It would be great to see a strong Inuk woman come forward that doesn’t bring her personal issues to the table.
    While I wish you all the best in the future MP, your first priority needs to be growing up. You have done nothing except pity yourself with this experience.

  24. Posted by Serious Questionf on

    When Mumilaaq was chased by security I can’t help but wonder if she was wearing her ID?

    • Posted by Just sayin’ on

      Clear disrespect for the security protocols. She should follow the rules like everyone else and show her ID, instead of having security chase after her when she fails to do that. They are only doing what they are paid to do.

  25. Posted by Nunavik Inuk on

    She just wants attention, nothing else.

  26. Posted by S on

    Maybe one of the established and polished MLAs will throw a hat in the ring for the Federal election. There are a few good ones.

  27. Posted by Lynn on

    Thank goodness this is her farewell speech.
    I am not going to miss her long winded speeches about nothing at all, saying the same things over and over again.
    A lot of talking but nothing ever really done.
    She is good with her words and that is why she has so many loyal followers.
    she is not really a doing anything for the territory, just a LOT of words.

  28. Posted by The outrage porn gift shop on

    I see Mumilaaq is peddling her outrage porn on twitter, $100 for a signed copy of her speech and $50 for a ‘Vote Mumilaaq’ poster… get them while supplies last!

  29. Posted by ches on

    Hounding individuals as we see being done in the press does not help, the way to improve is to work on the issue. The MP is still learning and growing, Rome was not built in a day. The Green Party of Canada allows MPs the most freedom when differing views are voiced, they are the better choice in my book. Liberals are one of the worst for having members get in line when they are the party is wrong, such as taking American pro-war, pro-conflict stance when pressured to do so. 1 example of many!

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