Labrador MP demands apology after Nunavut MP says she is 'not an Inuk'

The Liberal member of parliament for Labrador, Yvonne Jones, demanded an apology from Nunavut’s NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq in the House of Commons Monday, after Qaqqaq said Jones was “not an Inuk” in a recent response to a 2019 tweet.

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq tweeted her statement Friday in response to 2019 tweet

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones speaks to media in 2016. Jones demanded an apology from Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq Monday for a tweet that says Jones is 'not an Inuk.' (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The Liberal member of parliament for Labrador, Yvonne Jones, demanded an apology from Nunavut's NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq in the House of Commons Monday, after Qaqqaq said Jones was "not an Inuk" in a recent response to a 2019 tweet.

"I ask the member to respect all Indigenous people in Canada, and apologize for her statement, and stop committing racial erosion against her own culture," Jones said.

"It is attitudes like hers that have set Inuit back decades in modern society."

Jones is a member of the NunatuKavut Community Council, formerly known as the Labrador Métis Nation, a non-status group representing people of mixed Indigenous and non-Indigenous descent in southern Labrador.

Since 2018, the group has been pursuing recognition of Indigenous rights in the region, and completed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government in 2019.

A screenshot of Qaqqaq's reply to a 2019 election night tweet identifying Jones as Inuk. (John Last/CBC)

But shortly thereafter, the Nunatsiavut government, which represents Inuit in northern Labrador, joined the Innu Nation in seeking to block the MOU, arguing that it overlapped with their claims. The Innu Nation additionally argued that the group was not Indigenous under terms set out in Section 35 of the Constitution Act.

"As a descendant of Inuit and white parents, I was raised with a deep connection to the land, and I continue to practice the traditional ways of our people," Jones said in her statement to the House of Commons.

"Unfortunately, I've never seen such disrespect from another parliamentarian in my 25 years in political office."

 Qaqqaq's tweet was made in response to a profile of Jones tweeted during election night in 2019, where the account @InigPoli refers to Jones as an Inuk.

Shortly after replying, Qaqqaq took aim at Jones on Twitter over the review process for the expansion of an iron ore mine in her territory.

Qaqqaq accused Jones, who is also parliamentary secretary to Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal, of sidestepping a question about her meeting with executives of the Baffinland Iron Mines company.

"If [she] is 'confident that all parties will continue their dialogue through the [review board] process and it's not up to us to prejudge the outcome' then why do we have records of her and [Vandal] meeting with Baffinland's CEO and their lobbyists behind closed doors?" she tweeted.

Vandal replied that the meeting took place before the hearings had begun.

"Her comments are laterally vicious and threatening to myself as an Inuk woman and to Inuit who are members of the NunatuKavut Inuit Council," Jones said Monday.

"I expect an apology and a withdrawal of her statement on Twitter."

In a response to CBC, Qaqqaq said she did not realize Jones claimed Inuk identity when she sent the tweet.

"I made a statement I believed to be fact," she wrote. "I did not mean to upset Ms. Jones." 

Qaqqaq said there is "much debate around NunatuKavut and whether or not that should be recognized as Inuit," and that "the conversation around identity and reclamation of identity is an important one."

But "after having conversations with other well respected Indigenous individuals, I realize I may have made a mistake in missing the full picture," she wrote.

Jones did not immediately reply to requests for comment.