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Crucial Fact

  • Their favourite word was nunavut.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as NDP MP for Nunavut (Nunavut)

Won their last election, in 2019, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21st, 2021

Mr. Speaker, today is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It should be a day of celebration, culture and history, but I am filled with a tremendous amount of sadness and anger.

When this institution talks about indigenous communities, we often talk about resiliency. Those in the federal institution talk about its record-breaking investments when a quarter to five dollars is a slap in the face. They pat themselves on the back while denying Inuit access to safe, livable space that keeps them alive.

I will continue to say this. There is nothing to be proud of for indigenous peoples in this institution. There is nothing for anyone to be patting themselves on the back. In fact, they should all feel extreme shame. I feel ashamed that Inuit are continuously being denied the right to live, the right to self-determination.

Today, I applaud Inuit and indigenous peoples. Without ourselves, our strength and our resilience, we would not be here.

Matna.

Members Not Seeking Re-election to the 44th Parliament June 15th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, matna.

Every time I walk onto the House of Commons grounds and speak in these chambers, I am reminded every step of the way I do not belong here.

I have never felt safe or protected in my position, especially within the House of Commons, often having pep talks with myself in the elevator or taking a moment in the bathroom stall to maintain my composure. When I walk through these doors not only am I reminded of the clear colonial house on fire I am willingly walking into, I am already in survival mode.

Since being elected, I expect to be stopped by security at my workplace. I have had security jog after me down hallways, nearly put their hands on me and racially profile me as a member of Parliament. I know what to do in these situations. My life in Canada, and especially through this experience, has taught me many things. As a brown woman, I do not move too quickly or suddenly, do not raise my voice, do not make a scene, maintain eye contact and do not hide my hands.

Every Inuk has survival mode. We have to. Not two generations ago, survival mode meant endurance of extreme temperatures and finding food throughout the winter. Now survival mode means being able to see that warmth in shelter and affordability in livelihood, but being denied it at the hands of the federal government.

The federal institution needs to change its own policies and procedures to reflect reality instead of creating barriers for people like me. I should not be afraid of going into work. No one should be afraid of going into work. It is possible to create change. It can be started here in the House of Commons and reflected in Canada. There is a refusal and unwillingness for change, not an inability to accomplish it.

People like me do not belong here in the federal institution. I am a human being who wants to use this institution to help people, but the reality is that this institution and country have been created off the backs, trauma and displacement of indigenous peoples. Even if we are told we should run, we still face huge barriers. Young people have been told they are not experienced enough, not ready to lead. Women have been told to sit pretty and listen. Disabled individuals have been shown they are not even worth the conversation. Inuit kill themselves at the highest rate in the country. We are facing a suicide epidemic and this institution refuses to care.

During my time in this chamber, I have heard so many pretty words, like reconciliation, diversity and inclusion. I have been called courageous, brave and strong by people outside of my party. However, let me be honest, brutally honest. Nice words with no action hurt when they are uttered by those with power over the federal institution who refuse to take action. The legacy this institution continues to not only maintain but to build and fuel is nothing to take pride in. 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.

Recently I asked a minister what he would do in my shoes. If his riding had the highest rates of suicide, with the most homes in need of repair, if women and girls were going missing in his community and children were being taken into foster care without regard for their well-being, how would he feel? I asked if the minister would change his answer if I told him to keep waiting. He could not answer me. He said he would never even try to place himself in my shoes. That is exactly what the problem is. Inuit have been telling those with the power and ability to make change to try and survive in their shoes for one day, one week, one month. They could not.

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. When we tell them to act now, they need to act now. If they do understand, then shame on them, because if they do understand how much this hurts, they understand how deep it cuts. It would be easier for me to be told that I am wrong and that they disagree than to be told that I am right and I am courageous but there is no room in their budget for the basic human rights that so many others take for granted.

I do not belong here, but my presence, I hope, is starting to crack the foundations of this very federal institution that started colonizing Inuit barely 70 years ago. I realize that this is difficult for some members to hear, but it is the reality and the truth. This place was built on the oppression of indigenous peoples, people like my grandfather, who was born and raised on the land but was forcibly relocated to a settlement that was financed and built by the federal institution.

Our history is stained with blood. It is the blood of children, youth, adults and elders. It is time to face the scales of justice. On one side we have a mountain of suffering, and whenever the government gives us a grain of sand of support, it seems to think the trauma from our past has been rectified and that somehow it deserves a pat on the back. However, it will take a mountain of support to even begin the healing process. As long as these halls echo with empty promises instead of real action, I will not belong here.

Although I may not belong in this institution, I do belong in my party. The NDP has always been a party committed to uplifting the voices of all those, of all different backgrounds, who are ignored by the federal institution.

I would like to thank my leader, the member for Burnaby South, for listening to me and making me feel safe and comfortable to voice what I needed to. Members from other parties have come to me asking me to advocate for an issue their party refused to touch, but I never felt muzzled by the NDP. I could never join another party and I am a proud New Democrat.

I thank my colleagues from New Westminster—Burnaby, North Island—Powell River and especially Hamilton Centre for always having my back. Without my NDP colleagues I would not have such a great platform that is true in the want to do more, to do better and to do right.

I would also like to thank my number one supports, my mother and father, Pia and Jimmy, and my brother Lars, for everything from day one.

I give a huge shout-out to my staff. I could not have survived without then. With all the things that have come out of my office, everything that I am so proud of, I know that I could not have done this without them. I am so grateful for them.

Of course, ultimately, from the bottom of my heart, I thank Inuit and Nunavummiut who believe in me and support me. The encouraging messages have meant more than people will know. I would like to thank Pauktuutit for always standing up for Inuit women and girls like me and for speaking truth to power, even when it is inconvenient.

I will always fight for the human rights of indigenous peoples in Nunavut and across the country. I believe that we are living through a shift in this country and Canadians are starting to wake up to the reality. I am looking forward to a time when people like me can belong here, a time when we can be here. I hope another young person, Inuk person, woman or all three will follow in my footsteps and continue pushing this institution to support indigenous peoples in Canada.

I have shown the nation and the world that impossible is possible, that hope can grow where it is purposely put out and that if we work together and use our voices we can influence real change. I will always believe politics can look, feel and be different. It can, it has and it has started. We will keep it going, and we all must ensure that it does.

Canada Elections Act June 14th, 2021

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-309, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (Indigenous languages).

Madam Speaker. Today, I am introducing my bill to get indigenous languages on the ballot. Indigenous languages, democracy and reducing barriers to voting are all important to all members of the House, and I look forward to everyone's support in this initiative.

During colonization, the languages of these lands were replaced by settler languages. Indigenous peoples in Canada have always faced barriers in participation in politics. In the last election, voter turnout for indigenous peoples living on reserves was 51.8%. In Nunavut, which is almost entirely indigenous, voter turnout was under 50%, well below the Canadian average of 76% voter turnout.

The federal government's report in PROC recognized that indigenous peoples, especially elders, would face significant barriers to voting in a COVID election. How can it be that in Nunavut, where 46% of voters' first language is Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun, ballots are only in English and French. Imagine if the voters in Quebec or Alberta could not vote in English or French. This is the situation that many constituents in Nunavut face every federal election.

It is profoundly important to us, the indigenous peoples of these lands, to have what we deserve. We need to seize this COVID election as an opportunity to put our indigenous languages where they belong: on Elections Canada ballots beside English and French. This bill asks the federal government to put reconciliation on the ballot. Recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to vote in their languages is one small step in the right direction.

I am urging the federal government and all members of the House to come together and ensure that we use every available opportunity to immediately right this wrong in the spirit of true reconciliation. My name may not be on the ballot in this upcoming election, but I want indigenous languages to be.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Indigenous Affairs June 7th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the head of Canada, likes to use buzzwords like “reconciliation” to look good on the world stage without actually fulfilling basic human rights on Canadian soil. The Government of Canada destroyed records on residential schools, erasing vital information. The Catholic church holds the remaining records on these institutions.

If indigenous lives are so important, as the Prime Minister likes to portray, why would he not do everything in his power instead of taking knees and making apologies? Why will the government not force the church to provide information that is rightfully ours?

Business of Supply June 3rd, 2021

Matna, Mr. Speaker, for letting me continue.

Just like suicide and death, losing children to foster care is becoming the norm for Inuit families. This is a direct outcome of basic human rights being violated. Put that on top of injustices from history.

Before the 1950s, Inuit lived the way we have lived for thousands of years: no housing crisis, no suicide epidemic. Then, the Canadian government increased its presence in the north, not to support Inuit but because Canada wanted to develop natural resources and, most importantly, demonstrate its sovereignty in the region. It wanted the land; it did not care for the people in it.

What happened? Inuit were forced into settlements and lived in what they called matchbox houses. Clearly, from this time onward Inuit have never had adequate or safe housing. Inuit sled dogs, or qimmiq, were slaughtered by the RCMP as a means to keep Inuit in the settlements and prevent them from traditional hunting to feed themselves. This meant that Inuit were forced to rely on the government, much as we continue to see today.

Inuit were ripped from the settlements and sent on boats to southern Canada to be treated for tuberculosis. Often there were helicopters that scouted the area to take away Inuit who were in hiding and did not want to go. At hospitals and sanatoriums in the south there were a wide variety of things that happened. Inuit were forbidden from speaking Inuktitut. They were beaten, sexually assaulted and belittled, and many children never made it home. We have also heard about experiments being done on people in these sanatoriums.

Along with this, Canada had residential schools in the north. Inuit children were forced to go to church-sponsored school for months or years at a time to be assimilated. Their hair was cut and their clothes were changed, and they were forced to do hard labour. Their language was beaten out of them often.

Of course, people today are stressed, depressed and anxious. This is not ancient history. Children who went through this horror now have children my age. We are barely surviving. Privileged Inuit like me are those who are not fighting for basic human rights every single day and who see how unfair this all is. We stand up for other Inuit.

This is why I am here. I am here in an institution that has tried to eliminate my people for the last 70 years, standing up to say that the federal government is responsible for the ongoing colonization that is happening. The residential schools and genocide waged against us have evolved into the foster care system and the suicide epidemic we see today.

Residential schools and indigenous genocide are a 21st-century problem. Acting is in the hands of the government. The Liberals can choose to support efforts toward real change, like the motion we proposed today, or they can join governments of the past in perpetuating violence against indigenous peoples. Do not tell me they cannot afford to honour the promises made during colonization about housing. Provide all Nunavummiut with decent homes. Canadian billionaires added $78 billion to their wealth in just the last year and we are not taxing them. This is about priorities. Do not tell me the government cannot afford to provide safe spaces for Inuit.

The inaction of successive Liberal and Conservative governments is a direct reason for Nunavut's deaths, violence and turmoil. I demand that the government treat us like human beings, fulfill its promises and give us basic human rights.

Business of Supply June 3rd, 2021

Mr. Speaker, matna. For much of Canada, the 215 children found on the Kamloops residential school grounds was a shocking discovery, but for indigenous peoples this was not a discovery. This was a confirmation of the reality of genocide we have known all along.

I am glad to hear members finally waking up to what indigenous peoples already knew, but many in this chamber clearly have more to discover about the reality of the ongoing colonization of indigenous peoples across Canada. I see this every day in my riding, and I need my colleagues, Canadians and the world to listen.

Recently I spoke with a friend of mine, Nikki Komaksiutiksak. Nikki is originally from Nunavut, but moved to Winnipeg at a very young age with her mother to live with her aunt. Both her mom and her aunt are residential school survivors.

After arriving in her new home, Nikki experienced severe amounts of abuse. Eventually she ran away from home to escape the violence, but police found her and took back to her house. They thought her resistance to going home was because she was a defiant kid, so they pushed her to the front door. Nikki was so terrified of what was on the other side that she tore her clothes off to show the police her injuries. They stared at Nikki, a 13-year-old, with hundreds of whip marks and stab marks all over her body.

The police took her to the hospital, where she stayed for 24 hours, and immediately afterward she was taken to her first group home. She felt incredibly alone. Nikki was never asked what she wanted, how she felt or how she needed help. Because of this, she felt it was better to run away to be with her friends, but again she was caught by the police and put back into the system.

In just two years, Nikki was in 15 group homes. She was always running away, trying to find a sense of normalcy and feeling more and more alone. She went into foster care with her cousin, who was so close to her that they considered one another sisters. Her cousin was murdered in Winnipeg at the age of 17, and still no one has taken responsibility for her death.

Imagine even before graduating high school being tossed from home to home, not often shown love in the way a child needs and not having stability or consistency in day-to-day life.

Nikki attempted to die by suicide many times and eventually was put into a treatment centre. There, she received counselling and therapy for the first time ever. She started to learn new ways of coping and was given tools to start working toward breaking cycles of trauma. From therapy, she was eventually put into a foster home with parents who cared for her and loved her.

While in the foster system, Nikki had three babies of her own and fought to make sure they were never taken away from her. This was not easy, but she fought and she won. She eventually finished grade 12, went to university and got an amazing job where she fights to support Inuit every day at Tunngasugit. She now fosters high-risk teenage girls herself.

The story of Nikki is the story of thousands of Inuit and indigenous children across Canada. Nikki’s strength and resilience mean her children have a bright future. That strength came from her, and from her will to become better.

Colonization is not over: it has a new name. Children are still being separated from their communities. Foster care is the new residential school system. The suicide epidemic is the new form of indigenous genocide.

I come from a community with one of the highest rates of suicide. Throughout my life, I have seen periods of extreme hopelessness in Baker Lake, where there are sometimes three or four suicides in less than two months. These were my friends, teammates and classmates.

I often wondered growing up if things were changing or just getting worse, but the intergenerational trauma of the recent past has created a terrible cycle where death has become normal. For Inuit, suicide is an epidemic. We know in Nunavut that things often are not recorded or investigated correctly. Many families do not get answers. Questionable information is withheld. Questions go unanswered and ignored. Families do not have support in any way, shape or form. Often families are left to clean up the remains of their loved ones.

I have heard stories of people with no heads, of the colours they turn when they hang themselves from the ceiling and of the way it smells when someone passes away. There are often times when children and youth see much of this. However, after all of these traumatic incidents, there are not many mental health resources, let alone culturally relevant mental health resources, available to these children and these families.

Just like suicide and death, losing children to foster care is becoming the norm for Inuit families. This is a direct outcome—

Indigenous Peoples June 3rd, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that the remains of 215 children are from a dark and shameful chapter of our country's history, but indigenous peoples know that colonization is not just in the past. It is an ongoing reality.

More than 50% of children in foster care are indigenous, but account for less than 8% of the child population. More than 30% of inmates in prison are indigenous and Inuit in Nunavut die by suicide at nine times the rate of non-indigenous Canadians.

Colonization is not a dark chapter in Canadian history. It is a book that the federal institution continues to write. We are tired of living in someone else's story and refuse to continue to have it written for us. We have written and will continue to write new chapters and will not ask for permission to live lives full of dignity and respect. We will demand it.

Indigenous Affairs May 31st, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the federal government and churches ripped children away from their homes, put them into residential schools and kept their bodies. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission lays out a clear path to doing the right thing, yet the current federal government has stayed at a standstill.

There were three-year-old babies in the ground. How many more are there? When will the federal government implement calls to action 71 through 76? Our children's bodies deserve to come home.

Northern Housing May 13th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the fight against COVID-19 must include real investments in northern housing.

In Nunavut, we have had COVID cases in three isolated communities, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Kinngait, in just the past month. While families in Ottawa and Toronto are told to stay home, wash their hands and stay physically distanced, Nunavummiut are packed inside overcrowded and mouldy homes that are falling apart.

Nunavut has the highest rate of overcrowded housing in Canada, and we have six times the national average of housing in need of major repairs. Twenty-five million dollars in the budget is laughable, to say the least. How can they stay in their homes, when their houses are full of mould, they live with 14 other people in a four-bedroom and their house is full of broken pipes?

Addressing the chronic housing crisis in Nunavut is a matter of public health, indigenous rights and basic human dignity. We live in one of the richest countries in the world. We can do better; we must do better.

Indigenous Affairs April 16th, 2021

Madam Speaker, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation sent a letter to the Minister of Northern Affairs asking him to ensure a swift conclusion to the NIRB 's environmental and social assessment of the mine's proposed expansion. The minister has refused to meet with the Nuluujaat Land Guardians after multiple requests.

Reconciliation requires meaningful interaction with Inuit. Instead, the Liberals are ignoring requests to provide transparency and fulfill their obligations. Has the minister or his staff met with the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation in the last six months?