Arctic security and sovereignty were the focus for a delegation of MPs during a visit to the North last week.
From March 12 to 19, Nunavut NDP MP Lori Idlout led the trip as part of an ongoing House of Commons Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee study that included stops in Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Yellowknife.
“There has been a major lack of investments in the North so that the Arctic communities can be better engaged in Arctic sovereignty, Arctic security and emergency preparedness,” Idlout said in an interview.
Joining Idlout were fellow committee members Conservative Bob Zimmer and Liberal Marcus Powlowski.
As well, Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou Bloc Quebecois MP Sylvie Bérubé, who formerly served on the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee, travelled with Idlout along with Niagara Centre Liberal MP and Indigenous services parliamentary secretary Vance Badawey.
Bérubé travelled with Idlout because Marilène Gill, her party’s sole member on the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee, was not available.
The members visited municipal offices and community organizations, and on the final day met with Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane.
Both Idlout and Bérubé said their visit showed the need for the federal government to better support organizations and search-and-rescue groups in the North that lack adequate infrastructure and timely funding.
Idlout specifically highlighted Canadian Rangers as having to face delays to get their equipment repaired and for reimbursements for the associated costs.
“Canadian Rangers, as an arm of the military, are volunteers that use their own equipment, like snowmobiles,” Idlout said.
“We were told it takes anywhere between three to six months to get their money back, and then that much longer to get repairs done so that they can do their job in the Canadian Rangers.”
Bérubé, as the MP representing Nunavik since 2019, has not spent more than an afternoon in the region.
Despite that, she noted similarities between Nunavut and Nunavik communities and said the government will need to respond to issues identified in a committee report on the visit.
That report will be tabled in the House of Commons at a later date.
“We met many people, we received an update on the needs of residents, including improvements to the ports, renovations of rinks, improvements to airport terminals,” Bérubé said in a French interview.
“These are all things that were discussed, and a report will be released.”
Idlout had hoped the trip would allow more time to look into other issues in Nunavut she wanted her committee colleagues to see.
Specifically, Idlout wanted to tour crowded and mouldy homes to highlight the territory’s housing crisis, but the meeting and travel schedule did not allow that.
“I think that, as informative as this was, there’s definitely going to continue to have a need to make sure that we’re also talking about the social issues and what the continuing impacts are of colonial policies,” she said.
“We need to make sure that we really are working towards better recognition of self-determining nations who want to decide how funds are distributed.”
Both Idlout and Bérubé shared a positive mutual takeaway from the experience: the two MPs said they personally know each other better now, and that will allow them to work together better in the House of Commons.
The two are planning their own trips back to the North throughout the year.
Idlout hopes to reach a few Nunavut communities in April. And Bérubé, who described her Nunavut experience as enriching, said she’s looking to get to Kuujjuaq, Salluit and other Nunavik communities for a week in September.
By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 22, 2023