Nunavut MP Lori Idlout called on the federal government to offer more housing and better mental health support in her home territory in her Inuktitut response to the throne speech Thursday in the House of Commons.
In what has, so far, been her most extensive speech in her first language, Idlout began by promising to be a voice in the house for all Nunavummiut, First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
She then spent a considerable amount of time speaking about the generational trauma caused by residential schools, and how many Indigenous people, especially in Nunavut, are experiencing a major mental health and suicide crisis.
“We suffered a lot, going through the residential school system,” she said in her speech. “The attempt to hide this colonial history has driven far too many First Nations, Métis and Inuit to addictions and too many, ultimately, to suicide.”
Idlout also described hearing “stories of heartbreak and hope” in Nunavut from people who are experiencing poverty, but also see a prosperous future. She called on the government to invest in housing in the North, especially for elders and gender-diverse people.
“Nunavummiut understand that there are incredible opportunities to make our communities stronger and a better place for the next generation,” she said.
“I would like to take the opportunity to work with members to look at our traditional, legal knowledge and philosophy of life, so that we can work together to solve our problems.”
As her speaking time ran out, she finished her remarks by calling on the government to approve the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Following her speech, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller was given the chance to either ask Idlout a question or provide a comment in response. Miller used his time to thank Idlout for sharing her remarks and thank the house’s interpreters for making it possible for Indigenous languages to be to be spoken and heard in parliament.
“I want to acknowledge the words that the member has stated,” Miller said. “I think her words speak for herself.”
In response to Miller, Idlout briefly rose again to thank him for his remarks. Idlout said that she feels she “can work very well with him,” and she hopes to work with all of the Liberal cabinet and members across party lines.
Idlout finished by encouraging all MPs to collaborate with Indigenous groups for mutual benefit.
“Members should listen to the Indigenous organizations and work with them, changing policies if that can better their lives,” she said.
This speech marked was the second time Idlout rose to speak in Inuktitut. On Nov. 26, she rose in question period to ask the Liberals to act on making elder care available across Nunavut.