Suit seeks $600,000 damages for 'mental anguish, anxiety'

Gunn sues Okalik over Labrador word blast


Paul Okalik, the Nunavut premier, faces a $600,000 lawsuit for lobbing an offensive name at Lynda Gunn, the chief executive officer of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, during a dinner in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador last June.

When Gunn and Iqaluit mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik arrived at the dinner, Okalik reacted by saying, "What is that fucking bitch Lynda Gunn doing here?"

In her lawsuit, filed April 1 in the Nunavut Court of Justice, Gunn alleges that the incident harmed her reputation and caused her "mental anguish and anxiety."

"Ms. Gunn's ability to perform the duties associated with her position have been adversely affected by the damages to her reputation, as well as her mental anguish and anxiety," the statement of claim says.

It goes on to say: "The defamatory comments were calculated to embarrass and harm Ms. Gunn personally and to lower her standing in the minds of the attendees of the dinner."

Gunn is seeking $400,000 for loss of reputation, mental distress and anxiety, and an additional $200,000 in exemplary damages, which are typically awarded in cases of particularly malicious acts. Gunn is also seeking coverage of her legal bills.

"The comments made by the premier warrant exemplary damages to ensure that the premier is adequately punished for the conduct and is deterred from acting in such a way in the future," the statement says.

And the statement names the Government of Nunavut because it says Okalik acted as a GN representative when he made the remarks.

Ron Nelson, Okalik's Edmonton-based lawyer, said April 4 that neither the premier nor the GN had been served with the statement of claim. Once that happens, he'll file a statement of defence.

Nelson said he couldn't say much about the suit.

"It's premature for all of that," he said. "I don't have instructions specifically on the position we're going to be taking."

Last June's incident made national headlines and Gunn's suit notes at least 12 media articles written in its aftermath. It also prompted calls from Gunn and Tagak Curley, MLA for Rankin Inlet North, for Okalik to resign as premier.

Okalik apologized shortly after the incident and was later censured by the legislative assembly.

Neither Gunn nor the premier's office would comment. The allegations in the lawsuit have yet to be proven in court.

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