Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut August 08, 2016 - 4:45 pm

Growing online chorus demands Nunavut MP’s resignation

Performer Tanya Tagaq wants Hunter Tootoo to quit

THOMAS ROHNER
Throat singer and song writer Tanya Tagaq says Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo should leave office so Nunavut voters can choose a new MP in a by-election.
Throat singer and song writer Tanya Tagaq says Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo should leave office so Nunavut voters can choose a new MP in a by-election. "You were carrying the torch, and you didn’t take care of it, so step aside,” she said. (FILE PHOTO)
It appears as if Hunter Tootoo's candidacy in Nunavut for the Liberal Party of Canada was
It appears as if Hunter Tootoo's candidacy in Nunavut for the Liberal Party of Canada was "greenlit" by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the heads of the Nunavut Liberal electoral district association. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut needs an MP who is healthy — physically, mentally and spiritually — and that’s why Hunter Tootoo should resign immediately.

That’s the message from Nunavut singer and song writer Tanya Tagaq, who lent her voice to a growing online call for Tootoo’s resignation.

“This isn’t personal at all, I don’t know Hunter,” Tagaq told Nunatsiaq News Aug. 8 from her Cambridge Bay home.

“If he’s getting treatment, good for him, I support him 100 per cent. But just get out of the way so someone else can lead us. You were carrying the torch, and you didn’t take care of it, so step aside.”

The award-winning musician is no stranger to taking a strong political position: In the past, Tagaq has taken animal rights activists and filmmakers to task for cultural insensitivity.

This time, Tagaq said she is “fed up” with the negative stereotypes and the heavy burden that Inuit carry because of behaviours like those admitted to by Tootoo.

Tootoo resigned as a minister and a member of Liberal caucus in the House of Commons May 31 to check himself into an alcohol addictions treatment program.

Shortly after emerging from that program, news reports surfaced that Tootoo had an inappropriate relationship with a junior staffer. 

Since then, Tootoo has offered no information himself but he confirmed one of the most persistent rumours: that he had a “consensual but inappropriate” relationship with a staffer.

“The whole thing is murky,” Tagaq said.

“At first it was addictions, now it’s this inappropriate behavior. And now it’s all about reforming.”

Tagaq said she’s seen many other Inuit men go through the same pattern of behavior.

“They’re on their merry path, and then all of a sudden it’s about reforming. But it wasn’t about reforming until they got caught.”

Tootoo needs to take responsibility by stepping down, Tagaq said.

By staying in his position, Tootoo is telling Nunavummiut, especially children, that you can get away with inappropriate behaviour.

“Heal yourself, go on a journey, and then come back when you’re ready,” Tagaq said of Tootoo.

In the meantime, there are plenty of capable, determined and proud Inuit who can better represent Inuit, she said.

Other Nunavummiut who have taken to social media recently echoed Tagaq’s comments.

Some fear Tootoo can no longer represent his female constituents.

Iqaluit-based lawyer Joey Murdoch-Flowers used humour to make the same point.

On a more serious note, the lawyer then listed his reasons for calling on Tootoo to resign, including:

• sexually inappropriate behaviour makes Tootoo unfit for the Liberal party and for service as an independent MP;

• Tootoo has been “evasive” and is “not willing to address” the situation; and,

• Tootoo has lost the confidence of those who put him into office.

Murdoch-Flowers also had an exchange on Twitter with David Lintaman, who said he was involved in the Nunavut Liberal electoral district association.

Lintaman said Tootoo was not selected by Nunavut Liberals, but “greenlighted” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The president of the Nunavut Liberal electoral district association, Michel Potvin, declined an interview request earlier this month.

On its website, the House of Commons lists six ways a member’s seat can become vacant.

That list includes a member’s resignation.

If Tootoo resigned, the chief electoral officer for Elections Canada would have to issue a writ for a by-election within six months, the Canada Elections Act says.

The by-election could then be held at least 36 days after that writ is issued.

There is no limit on how far into the future that by-election must be called, the Parliament of Canada’s procedure book says.

That means if Tootoo resigned, his seat could theoretically remain empty until the next general election in 2019.

Tagaq said Inuit everywhere in Canada suffer under negative stereotypes that they are all guilty of being alcoholics, sexually inappropriate and molest children.

Those stereotypes are related to statistics that show Nunavut has a higher rate of those behaviours than most other places in the world.

“We don’t need someone who has alcohol problems in the spotlight right now. We need someone who is willing to put their job first and be healthy enough, going into the job to begin with.”

 

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