Mumilaaq Qaqqaq: Speaker of Truth
By Erin Blondeau
A self-described 20 something-year-old speaker of truth, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (ᒧᒥᓛᖅ ᖃᖅᑲᖅ) is an Inuk politician who represents Nunavut as a Member of Parliament. In just a few years, Qaqqaq has already accomplished what many others don’t (or are not willing to do) by refusing to accept the contemporary state of affairs, and talking openly about the inequities of this country.
Originally from Qamani'tuaq, also known as Baker Lake, Qaqqaq grew up in the fourth largest community in Nunavut. The community is situated in the center of the territory on the edge of a lake. Qaqqaq worked mostly in HR, suicide prevention, and a number of other things previously. She currently resides in Ottawa for the duration of her term in Parliament.
During her interview with Matriarch Movement podcast host Shayla Oulette Stonechild, Qaqqaq discusses the difficulties that Indigenous people in Canada face on a daily basis. With the uncovering of hundreds of grave sites of Indigenous children from residential “schools,” many non-Indigenous Canadians are finally waking up to the truth of racism and genocide. Though the media refer to the finding of these graves as “discoveries,” Qaqqaq explains that these mass graves are not a discovery, but a confirmation of what we have always known.
Perhaps the largest media coverage of Qaqqaq was during and after her historic speech in the House of Commons.
Rare veracity in the Parliament
Earlier this year as the Liberals pushed for a new federal election, she was faced with a decision: tell the truth or tone it down. Being a speaker of truth, Qaqqaq knew quickly what she was going to do.
Among other politicians who would not be running for re-election, Qaqqaq prepared a bold and honest speech. She felt compelled to utilize this opportunity to speak the truth, on the record, to the House of Commons. This was an opportunity to tell Canada about the racism occuring at the Parliament and all across the country.
“Mr. Speaker, every time I walk on to House of Common grounds, speak in these chambers, I’m reminded every step of the way I don’t belong here,” Qaqqaq said in the opening of her 10-minute speech.
In her speech, Qaqqaq reported feeling so unsafe in her workplace, that she was in survival mode every time she entered the building. Guards at the Parliament would racially profile her, and make her feel threatened for doing what any other non-Indigenous staff would do -- walk confidently into their place of work. She recalled having to hype herself up before entering, never knowing what kind of barriers she was going to face that day.
As Qaqqaq explained, Inuit have always been in survival mode. From having to survive in the arctic by finding food and crafting shelters in the snow and ice, to now fighting to survive in colonial Canada at the hands of systemic racism and oppression.
“That has been really interesting and stressful,” Qaqqaq reflected to Stonechild about her farewell speech.
“The media has handled it very poorly, saying that I am stepping down, that I’ve resigned, which is absolutely untrue. That has made my job incredibly difficult because people think I am no longer working as a member of parliament, and I am.”
According to the media, Qaqqaq is stepping down as MP. But the truth is, Qaqqaq is still working hard for Indigenous rights, even trying to get Bill C19 amended to include Indigenous languages on the ballot. She has also reported on the state of housing in Nunavut from her housing tour last fall and winter.
The 22-page report shows the truth about the government’s lack of priority to provide safe and healthy living spaces for Inuit, even though we have known for decades that housing is the minimum that people need in order to survive.
Standing up for Indigeneity in a colonial world
In discussing her journey to politics, Qaqqaq explained to Stonechild that she could not run for a leader she did not believe in. She found that she was able to have honest conversations with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, which she says likely wouldn’t have happened with other political leaders. Singh had his own barriers that he had to overcome; he’s experienced racialized discrimination, so he can bring a level of understanding that many other politicians can’t.
“I think a lot of us Indigenous people... we are not good at stopping and taking care of ourselves. We are so concerned about people around us all the time and how we help people in the community around us,” Qaqqaq told Stonechild.
Taking time to reflect and do a self-check in on how we are feeling is crucial; Qaqqaq has been open about taking time to refresh and heal from burnout. In this time of Indigenous resurgence, it is more important than ever to take breaks and dedicate time to rest.
All Canadians can help Qaqqaq’s work to bring truth and justice to the crimes against Indigenous Peoples by sending an email to Minister Lametti, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. All you have to do is go to this link, enter your information and click “add your voice” to send the pre-written letter.