Nunavut’s NDP candidate in federal election is 25, just like the Inuit who founded the territory

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq walks up to the agreed meeting spot wearing a light fall coat and purple hat to ward off the crisp air that has landed on Iqaluit early in this federal election.

The city she now calls home is spread out behind her.

Qaqqaq, 25, is the NDPs choice candidate to win the open riding.

That’s young by federal standards, but things are different in Nunavut.

Nunavut’s average age is 25, and there is a history of younger people getting things done.

Qaqqaq was ready for the age question.

She smiles as it is delivered- and has a quick response on hand.

“When we think back to when Nunavut was first being created, all of those people, most of those people were in their 20s, all those Inuit,” says Qaqqaq.

“When we look at other politics and other political leaders, often they start in their political career very young, in their 20s.”

Winning the Nunavut riding and claiming a seat in the House of Commons wouldn’t be her first time taking a seat there.

In 2017, Qaqqaq was a part of Daughters of The Vote, a program that brought young women together from across the country and put them on the floor of the House of Commons as MPs.

She delivered a speech about suicide in Nunavut that brought the assembled women to their feet –twice- for standing ovations.

She ended by asking, “where are our non-Indigenous allies?”

The video took off online.

“I took every opportunity that I could, and one of those ended up being Daughters of the Vote, where I got to speak in Parliament,” says Qaqqaq.

“The video got way bigger than I thought it was going to, and what I had planned on. The aftermath of that was working with Inuit Tapariit Kanatami and working with Susan Aglukark for her Arctic Rose foundation.”

Originally from Baker Lake – both her parents are teachers there and her brother is a full time hunter.

She has called Iqaluit home since 2017.

Her decision to run is based on those Baker Lake experiences, and what she learned next.

“I’m running because I care, and I understand that there are things that need to change, and new things that need to be done, for us to see betterment for Nunavummiut, for Inuit. We all know that the suicide rate is higher here than anywhere else in Canada, and there are things that need to change.

“I think it is important to see people like myself and people who look like me, in these kinds of positions,” says Qaqqaq.

The Nunavut riding is unique in this election.

There are three Inuit women running for the three leading parties.

Qaqqaq is up against former Conservative cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq and Liberal candidate Megan Pizzo-Lyall.

For Qaqqaq, backing the NDP platform was a natural fit.

“The NDP’s priorities line up with mine, and it’s a lot of things that we need up here. It’s a very diverse group, and they very openly promote that. 50 per cent of their candidates are women, they have a wide variety of LGBTQ and Indigenous people, and it’s really great to see that diversity.

“One of their focuses is reconciliation, but true reconciliation, and putting things like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People into law,” explains Qaqqaq.

Aside from being Inuit women, the three candidates have things in common.

All three are from smaller Nunavut communities, but all have lived in Iqaluit.

All three favour handmade Inuit earrings – Qaqqaq’s new ones are bright NDP orange- and all three always manage to be wearing at least a little seal fur when campaigning.

That’s surface stuff -the differences are in the policies- but Qaqqaq is happy to be joined by two Inuit peers.

“It’s powerful, it’s so exciting – no matter what the outcome is- that’s what were going to see. Three Inuit women, that in itself is really amazing,” states Qaqqaq.

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