When federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh walked into Iqaluit’s Black Heart Café on Saturday, Inuit made sure he was dressed for it.
Both Singh and Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq were sporting brand new, locally handmade, NDP orange parkas.
Designed by local Iqaluit seamstress Marlene Watson – who has designed for Canada Goose and previously made a parka for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – the parkas feature real fur.
Underneath the NDP logo on the back, in Inuktitut , “Ilinnut Pilariavut” which means “In It For You.”
Qaqqaq and Singh made their way around the crowded café, taking selfies with supporters and people who had just happened by for coffee.
Former Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa was one of them.
As Singh moved in for the photo, Qaqqaq whispered into his ear, and a look of recognition came over Singh’s face.
He immediately began an earnest chat with Quassa.
Singh and Qaqqaq spent part of Friday meeting with Inuit organizations and the Government of Nunavut.
The rest of the visit was much more informal, with two “meet and greets”, a visit to Iqaluit’s Tammaativvik medical boarding home, the annual Christmas Craft Fair, a stop at a hockey game and the pair served food at the Qajuqturvik Food Centre to serve free lunch on Sunday.
Prior to that lunch, the two took questions from media. We wanted to know what Singh had learned by visiting Iqaluit for the first time.
“It’s one thing to hear the stories, it’s one thing to hear somebody explain something to you, versus going there to experience it,” explained Singh. “It’s always a much more powerful experience when you hear those stories directly and you see what’s happening directly.”
Qaqqaq was elected Nunavut’s MP a little over a month ago.
It is her first elected office and that comes with a steep learning curve.
“I’m learning to understand the policy side, the procedural side, where we have certain steps we need to take in order for us to get the ball rolling,” explained Qaqqaq when asked what she had learned in the last month.
Some of the policy side was promoted over the visit as well, a climate change bill tied to former NDP leader Jack Layton.
“We’ll be introducing a bill based on, inspired by Jack Layton’s 2008 bill,” Singh said. “This bill will put in place science based targets, and accountability to reach those targets, to make sure fighting the climate crisis is a part of the law.”
A quick three day return to Iqaluit also had the MP realizing how much time an MP spends in Ottawa.
“I think as well, I’m wrapping my head around the realization that I won’t be up here half the time, and I’ll be down South in Ottawa half the time. That’s something I’ll be really adjusting to as well,” said Qaqqaq.