Iqaluit city councillor Simon Nattaq apologized Tuesday for remarks he made about Black taxi drivers talking on their cell phones during a February council session. (File photo)

Iqaluit councillor apologizes for remarks about Black taxi drivers

Coun. Nattaq apologized during a city council meeting Tuesday

By Nunatsiaq News

Iqaluit Coun. Simon Nattaq apologized Tuesday for remarks he made about Black taxi drivers talking on their cellphones during a February council session.

“Regarding the observations of certain taxi drivers, I apologize for that comment,” Nattaq said. He spoke in Inuktitut and his comments were translated by an on-site interpreter at the meeting.

Mayor Kenny Bell said council appreciated the apology.

“We know that it was just a misspeak and wasn’t intended in any malicious way,” he said.

On Feb. 23, during a discussion on road safety, Nattaq singled out Black taxi drivers for “constantly” talking on their cell phones “in their language,” adding that he had “nothing against them but there’s been a lot of complaints from local people.”

He made the comments in Inuktitut and they were translated through an on-site interpreter.

Council voted unanimously to enter a private session to review the remarks. When they returned to their public session, Nattaq did not immediately apologize for what he said, and Bell said the comments would be dealt with at a later time.

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by Inuktut on

    Thank you Simon but no need for a apology, we get the point and it is still a issue the city needs to deal with, safety for everyone, distracted aggressive drivers still doing what they do.

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  2. Posted by Next Timer on

    Next time just say taxi drivers. Not black, not white, not French, not Inuit. Just call them taxi drivers.

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    • Posted by Yes on

      Yes next time don’t be so direct and be more general, it’s the new way how things work today.

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      • Posted by Shake on

        You seem annoyed at that. So you’d prefer that people be more specific when calling out problems? The issue isn’t the BLACK cab drivers. Many cab drivers use Bluetooth to talk on the phones, including white ones. Being specific about black ones only draws attention to the fact that people are taking more notice of them and are waiting for them to screw up, and are giving other cab drivers a pass for doing the same thing. That is discrimination. The people who made the complaints about black drivers talking in their language were already annoyed at them before the drivers were distracted.
        Also, even if it were true that the black drivers are more of a problem (they’re not though), singling them out as “black drivers” speaking in “their language” is a problem. As big of a problem as if I was complaining about all the drunken Inuit fighting out on my street all the time. It serves absolutely no purpose to point out their race. Imagine being a teenager of that race hearing people sneer about people of their race all the time. Imagine how that shapes them. It’s horrible. If a person refuses to even consider that viewpoint, it says a lot.

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    • Posted by mark fauchon on

      As a pedestrian I would go a step further and just say drivers in general.
      I walk quite a bit and have noticed many drivers seem preoccupied with their devices. So one day I tried to count drivers who appeared to be under the influence of their phones…I lost count a few times but I observed what seemed to be 17 people clearly splitting their attention between driving and checking on something other than driving. And I’d say that’d be about 1 in ten , just a guesstimate based on my observations that day.
      Still far too many , you don’t need to be traveling at highway speeds to have your day ruined by a distracted driver.
      Can’t be easy listening to dispatch, watching your calls tablet, yapping with a friend or relation on the phone and trying to suss out your fare.
      Thank to all you drivers who do your job conscientiously and work with everyone’s safety as a priority…not 8 bucks

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  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    Councillor Nattaq, sometimes things are lost in translation. it’s frustrating seeing any taxi driver talk on their phone when they are driving, we see it all the time here in the Kitikmeot Region. Please know you are looking out for the best for all of our people, no matter what colour.

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  4. Posted by Biko on

    It takes courage and strength to admit when you’re wrong and acknowledge it. Thank you, Councillor Nattaq for doing the right thing. Thank you for showing leadership on this matter through your apology.
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    This wasn’t about translation, interpretation or language. It wasn’t about not being able to use descriptive words for black and white. It was about specifying one colour of person. Saying taxi drivers would have been better. Even if it was a constituent’s comments that were being read, you have to censor out the racist and prejudiced ones.
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    Hopefully, the people who are still adamantly defending the use of racist generalization will reflect on this action by our councillor. It should be a learning moment for our city and territory.

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    • Posted by Lionel on

      Bingo. This is the correct answer.
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      The mental gymnastics people were doing to defend or attack Nattaq were ridiculous. I don’t think he was knowingly being malicious, but it was ignorant. I know Simon is well respected and he talks to a lot of people who have legitimate concerns with cabs in town, but if you focus on their race that says more about you than it does about them. The taxi problem in this town is a systematic one and it’s the owner that should be held accountable, not the drivers.

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  5. Posted by okay on

    As a black person, I am happy for the Inuit who has found a group (blacks) who are more marginalized than them. I live in Nunavut for a long time, and I have brushed off the racism that came from Inuit. I don’t know why I did that, but I just did. As a black person, my life was not easy in Nunavut. Also, I see it happening to many other blacks who are struggling with it. There is a group of Inuit who will take advantage of their white privileges then take the protection under the Inuit status that is a double whammy for blacks.

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    • Posted by What? on

      There is a group of Inuit who will take advantage of their white privileges. Please elaborate.

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      • Posted by Observation Post on

        Dear okay, I have worked with a few black people over the years in Nunavut and have seen the rough treatment and disrespect they can get at times. I am sorry you have had to go through that.

  6. Posted by Inuk on

    He was asked to apologize by the mayor, and a motion was made to deal with his comment. Of which Nunatsiaq News didn’t elaborates how the motion was worded. However, the Cities, Towns and Villages Act, section 170.2 (2) on Liability states, a council member is liable for anything said or brought before council, or committee of council by the Council member that is said or brought with malicious intent. It would seem to appear his comment was not malicious, but the motion made to deal with him would seem to appear that it was brought with malicious intent. Plus the issue on public safety was put in the back seat.

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  7. Posted by Stereotypes on

    Sounds like a sorry not sorry to me. At least he learned not to double down like Netser. Absolutely amazed that so many Inuit support the comments, saying there is no reason to apologize. The double standards on racism in Iqaluit are insane.

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  8. Posted by Jay Arnakak on

    so, Nattaq is forced to apologize for what some other people in his constituency have told him?

    I would ask, nay: demand, that the mayor audit the interpretation of what actually transpired where what Nattaq reported his constituents had complained to him and what was passed in the interpretation.

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    • Posted by Charlie on

      It isn’t his job to just regurgitate whatever constituents say to him. It is his job to present those concerns in an appropriate, professional way. If he wanted to present the safety concern, he should have recognized that it is wildly inappropriate and hateful for people to be complaining about the drivers’ race and how they use their language. Sure, present their concerns about safety. He could also have, as a professional who has been in politics for some time, addressed the fact that they were complaining about black drivers speaking in their language. It just should have been brought up as a separate issue – the issue of ongoing hateful racism against black people and immigrants in the city. He is paid to mentally sort through the issues others bring up to him before those meetings.

  9. Posted by Forever Amazed on

    Thank you Simon but I still maintain there was no need for a apology.

    I also still maintain that there may have been racism and even colonial attitudes towards you and your constituents from the council members demanding the apology.

    The message from your constituents was received: the city needs to deal with, safety for everyone and distracted drivers are still going to do what they are going to do.

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    • Posted by kite on

      The constituents weren’t concerned about distracted drivers. They were concerned about distracted drivers who were black and speak their language.

  10. Posted by Steve L Hill on

    Like many of you, I read Mr. Nattaqs statement, published in this newspaper.

    His statement was frank, and honest.

    In reality, it is likely that we have all made a miss-step or two in regards to cultural or racial biases, and, it is an area in which ‘we all’ need to continue to make a real, tangent effort.

    It shows Leadership and courage when someone takes responsibility and offers amends for ones miss-steps. I congratulate and thank Mr Nattaq for taking the time , and having the sensitivity, to clarify the situation.

    We should respect and appreciate what he has shared in his statement, and his apology.

    Now we move forward.

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