Canada’s social-democratic party leader promises to push for climate action in Nunavut’s capital

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq meet the public in Iqaluit on Saturday. (Travis Burke/CBC)
Nunavut’s new MP toured the leader of the NDP around Iqaluit this weekend.

MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh met with government of Nunavut and Inuit leaders on Friday, took in a hockey game and Christmas craft fair on Saturday and rounded out the visit with a climate change announcement.

Singh told media at the Qayuqtuvik Food Centre on Sunday that the NDP will be introducing a “science-based” climate bill after the House of Commons begins sitting next week.

The bill aims to increase Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction targets and include accountability measures if targets are not met. It’s fashioned on legislation tabled by Jack Layton in 2008 as the Climate Change Accountability Act.

Qaqqaq spoke about how Nunavummiut are on the front lines dealing with climate change, citing unpredictable temperatures, which cause strain on animal populations and create hazardous conditions for hunters.

“The impacts are being felt here in a massive way, changing the way of life, impacting food security, so…the people need to be a part of not just the [traditional knowledge sharing], but also part of the decisions,” Singh said.

He suggested that climate goals could go together with Nunavut’s economic development goals, if projects to provide alternatives to diesel were started in the territory.

Northern life could be made more affordable with more energy-efficient buildings, Singh said.

“When we retrofit homes, that creates jobs locally,”  Singh said. “Community benefit agreements have to create benefits for the local community, [and] that means Inuit jobs, that means jobs here in the North.”

Canada’s Minister of Economic Development Mélanie Joly (right) met with Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, the NDP’s CanNor critic in Iqaluit this week. (Submitted by Dan Lauzon)
Qaqqaq named NDP critic for CanNor

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq was made the NDP critic for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) when Singh announced his shadow cabinet this week.

The new Minister for Economic Development Mélanie Joly, who is responsible for CanNor, was also in Iqaluit this week and took the opportunity to meet with Qaqqaq.

Both said the meeting was a positive one.

“I heard that CanNor is doing good work, but at the same time that there are clear challenges and opportunities in the North,” Joly said.

Joly said she heard there are opportunities in fisheries, mining and tourism for Nunavut, but the lack of adequate housing is one issue holding the territory back.

As Canada’s former heritage minister, Joly says she keen to support plans for a performing arts centre in Iqaluit. CanNor has already helped fund the Qaggiavuut’s feasibility study of the centre.

Forefronting Indigenous issues

Despite having two Indigenous MPs in his caucus, Singh announced this week he will be the NDP critic on Indigenous issues.

“For me as a leader, I wanted to take that role and to give it the importance that I think it needs,” Singh said.

“One of the things that we kind of identified is that it shouldn’t be on Indigenous people to be the ones that criticize or fix the problems that were created by the colonization of Canada,” he said.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with the media after naming shadow cabinet members in the foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa, Thursday November 28, 2019. In his announcement, Singh also named himself as the Critic for Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations.
(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Singh said he believes Qaqqaq will be a strong voice and the NDP will be raising issues around access to affordable housing, clean water and education in the House of Commons.

“There are certain just basic issues that are not being dealt with here and they’re just questions of fairness, basic human rights, things that people take for granted in the South that folks here don’t have,” Singh said.

Qaqqaq is still assembling her staff and says her learning process will begin in earnest when she takes her seat in the House of Commons next week.

She said she’s been trying to raise Nunavut’s issues in southern Canada and internationally through media interviews and social media with the hopes it will change people’s perspectives.

Her Twitter account has garnered nearly 20,000 followers since the election.

Singh said he would return to Iqaluit and plans to visit other Nunavut communities on his next visits.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: ‘This is a crisis’: Canadian Northwest Territories survey shows worsening housing conditions, CBC News

Finland: Report highlights Finland’s top 5 housing problems, Yle News

Iceland: Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calls for climate action at Arctic Circle assembly, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Population declining in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish industry group asks government’s help in shifting away from fossil fuels, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s largest city unveils climate plan calling for 80 percent emissions cut by 2050, Alaska Public Media

Sara Frizzell, CBC News

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