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'Unacceptable' that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

Last Updated Jun 16, 2021 at 2:03 pm PDT

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says it’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s been racially profiled by security officials on Parliament Hill.

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, a rookie New Democrat MP from Nunavut, told the House of Commons on Tuesday night that she does not feel safe on the Hill.

She said she’s been chased down hallways and racially profiled by members of the Parliamentary Protective Service.

Commons Speaker Anthony Rota’s office says Qaqqaq has never complained about any incidents to the Speaker, who presides over the protective service along with the Speaker of the Senate.

The service itself has not so far responded to a request for comment on Qaqqaq’s allegations.

Miller says Qaqqaq is not the first MP of colour to complain, recalling that former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes also spoke out about feeling “carded” by Hill security — a reference to a controversial police practice that has been denounced for targeting primarily Indigenous and racialized individuals for questioning.

“It’s a reflection of still who we are as a country,” Miller said Wednesday.

“It is a sad reflection of where we are. It’s unacceptable and it shouldn’t be that way but it is.”

He added: “For someone to feel unsafe in what should be one of the most secure places in the country because of who she is and what her identity is is entirely unacceptable and, in fact, is an attack on her parliamentary privilege.”

Qaqqaq, first elected in 2019, has decided not to seek re-election. She told the Commons in what was her official farewell speech Tuesday that she feels she doesn’t belong in the chamber.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Commons has sat in a hybrid format for most of Qaqqaq’s brief time as an MP, with most MPs participating virtually in proceedings from their home ridings.

But in the short time she’s spent on the Hill, Qaqqaq said security guards have jogged after her down hallways, “nearly put their hands on me and racial profiled me.”

She said she’s learned “as a brown woman, do not move too quickly or suddenly, do not raise your voice, do not make a scene, maintain eye contact and don’t hide your hands.”

Last fall, Qaqqaq took a leave of absence for several months, later explaining she had been suffering from “extreme burnout, depression and anxiety.” She took another two-week leave in April, citing continuing “personal health problems.”

The second leave came on the heels of a Twitter spat with Labrador Liberal MP Yvonne Jones. Qaqqaq charged that Jones “is not an Inuk” and challenged her to “validate her Inuk-ness.”

She eventually apologized to Jones.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2021.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press