The party’s election campaigns heat up in Ungava

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By Patrick Quinn

Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative

Ahead of the October 3 Quebec election, the northernmost riding of Ungava is once again emerging as one of the most competitive races in the province. In 2018, Coalition Avenir Québec candidate Denis Lamothe won by just 46 votes over the Parti Québécois candidate, with the Liberals and Québec solidaire not far behind.

Ungava represents nearly half of the total area of ​​Quebec, including all of Eeyou Istchee, the 14 Inuit communities of Nunavik and the seven predominantly non-Aboriginal Jamesian towns.

It is also the only riding in Quebec with an Aboriginal majority, but it has never elected an Aboriginal deputy to the National Assembly.

That could change this year with the candidacies of Maitee Labrecque-Saganash (Québec solidaire) and Tunu Napartuk (Liberal), both well known in their respective Cree and Inuit communities.

Both candidates spoke at the recent Cree Nation Annual General Assembly in hopes of reversing the region’s traditionally low voter turnout, which was half the provincial average in 2018. They discussed the challenges to campaign on the vast territory, where the communities of Nunavik can only be reached by expensive flights. .

“This keeps a lot of communities on the fringes of democracy and public debate in Quebec and it’s simply not true,” said Labrecque-Saganash (who writes a column for the Nation). “People mostly talk to me about health care, housing and opportunities for people to come back and live in their communities. We were already in a housing crisis, but now it is impacting neighboring towns.

Labrecque-Saganash opposes the “dividing ideologies” of the CAQ pointing to Bill 96, which restricts the use of languages ​​other than French and intends to fight to protect indigenous languages. While the Québec solidaire platform expands French language protections, it also offers increased funding for Indigenous language initiatives and offers arguably the strongest support for self-determination of any party.

“Québec solidaire has this concept of territorial equity, so at least all regions would also have basic public services”,

explained Labrecque-Saganash. “We plan to bring the government workforce back to the region, most of the people who work for the Plan Nord are in Quebec, which makes no sense. The North is not a free for all. We want to establish a new social contract with the companies that extract resources.

Working with the Cree Health Board in Waswanipi has given her a better understanding of health care access and resource issues in the North.

In Nunavik, some communities have recently been deprived of emergency services, which Labrecque-Saganash and Napartuk attribute to the negligence of the CAQ government.

“We have clinics that are closing, even for emergency situations, because there are not enough resources,” Napartuk told the Nation. “The health of our fellow citizens in this constituency is at risk, solely because of the lack of support from the current government. Providing this meaningful representation is going to be crucial.

As former mayor of Kuujjuaq, Napartuk has extensive experience with key issues such as food security and the high cost of living in the North. Since Nunavik often feels ignored by provincial politicians, Napartuk wants to be this direct link between the government and northern communities.

“One of the biggest complaints is that Lamothe hardly visits our regions to see what our reality is,” Napartuk said. “I will be much better connected, reporting on what is happening at government level. From the visit I had to Waskaganish, our concerns and our challenges are very similar between the Inuit and the Crees.

Napartuk said he chose the Liberals in part because he did not want his region to secede from Canada. While the question of independence has dominated Quebec politics for more than 50 years, the rise of new parties like the CAQ and Quebec solidaire suggests that Quebecers are less interested in this question.

However, this remains the raison d’être of the Parti Québécois.

The PQ held the riding of Ungava for 40 consecutive years before being overthrown by the Liberals in 2014. Local PQ candidate Christine Moore believes building a new country would better address northern issues and encourage greater Aboriginal participation in politics.

“We’re going to build this country together that meets our different needs, that understands the reality of the North, instead of having a Canada that ignored you for over 100 years,” Moore told The Nation. “I think it’s exciting to say that we’re going to build something together instead of trying to correct all the mistakes made in the past.”

The former NDP MP for Abitibi-Témiscamingue worked as an oncology nurse after leaving federal politics in 2019 to focus on her four children. Moore is motivated to return to politics by health workforce issues, saying “we can’t survive four more years in this situation.”

“Health care is also linked to many other issues,” Moore said. “Twelve in the same house would certainly have an impact on health. All of nature is important. I fight for the people but also for the moose and all the other lives in Ungava who don’t vote.

The other two candidates for the riding of Ungava, incumbent Denis Lamothe and Nancy Lalancette of the Conservative Party of Quebec, did not respond to interview requests.

Lalancette is a 52-year-old licensed practical nurse from Chibougamau who mainly campaigns on the issue of health system reform. Despite currently holding just one seat in the National Assembly, the Conservatives have gained popularity by capitalizing on pandemic discontent and proposing to repeal Bill 96.

While polls suggest the CAQ is well ahead in the province, a lot could change before October 3. The results for the Ungava riding will largely depend on the ability of the two aboriginal candidates to encourage more people to vote.

Lamothe was criticized by the Cree Nation government this summer after unilaterally announcing the closure of sport moose hunting while blaming the community of Waswanipi. Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty alleged that he never participated in Cree dialogue and castigated his “colonialist behavior”.

Gull-Masty hopes to see a representative who understands the unique realities of the Cree, Inuit and Jamesian peoples of the region. She cited protecting the environment, combating racism and domestic violence, and improving mental health support services as issues close to her heart.

Patrick Quinn is a Reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative with THE NATION

The LJI is funded by the federal government. Turtle Island News does not receive funding from LJI.

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