Akesuk seeks opinions on Human Rights Act

“I believe in Christ, but this is a public government”



After polls closed on election night, Olayuk Akesuk found himself on the couch in his living room, watching TV in Cape Dorset.

“I’m all alone,” the riding’s first MLA shouted to a reporter coming in the door.

Sitting in blue jeans and a grey sweater, the 38-year-old cabinet veteran later found he wasn’t alone after all. The results were announced, and the congratulations started coming in.

Akesuk soundly beat two opponents in Kimmirut, garnering 58 per cent of the vote, a slight increase from his 1999 victory over Goo Arlooktoo, who had been expected to be the first premier of Nunavut. So, Akesuk, the underdog who beat a political Goliath in the territory’s first election, now has another term, this time as a seasoned politician.

Until results came in, Akesuk doubted his chances.

“As a politician, you can’t be too confident,” he said. “All of a sudden, everything can change.”

After receiving the news, Akesuk pledged to stick with his platform of lobbying Ottawa for more infrastructure funds for building docks, and improving education and housing. During his campaign, Akesuk said he found the needs of his constituency were the same as those in communities across the territory.

Akesuk’s success came after weeks of telling people that he hoped to do a better job than his last time in office. Akesuk didn’t mention specific complaints, but said he would be surveying people in his riding about what stance he should take on the Human Rights Act, passed by the last government. Akesuk supported the act when it came to a vote.

The act, which created dissent in government over the protection given to gays and lesbians, became an explosive issue during the election, and several candidates cited their protest of the legislation as their sole reason for running.

Asked if he belonged to the Christian fundamentalist camp who oppose the legal protection of gays and lesbians in the territory, Akesuk distanced himself from the group, saying no one group should influence the legislative assembly.

“This is a public government,” he said. “I believe in Christ, but it’s a public government like any other in Canada. If I was to choose one particular group [to represent], that would mean I wouldn’t be representing people as a whole.”

Akesuk, who is minister of sustainable development, ruled out seeking the premier’s post, leaving the known contenders, Paul Okalik and Tagak Curley, in the running. Asked if he’d seek another cabinet post, Akesuk said he’d have to wait and see if he would get support from the other MLAs.

Looking to the coming term, Akesuk said any improvements he makes as an MLA should be credited to his family, who he said have adapted to the demands of him being away.

“I miss a lot of the kids’ birthdays,” said the father of four. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t work as hard I have.

“I think family is a very big contributor to the political world.”

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