North

'No, I'm not resigning,' Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo says after explaining why he left Liberal caucus

Former federal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo says he's not stepping down as Nunavut's MP, and that the Prime Minister's Office did not ask him to conceal the details surrounding his resignation from the Liberal caucus.

'I'm not about to turn around from a difficult path ... I always face challenges head on,' Tootoo tells CBC

Hunter Tootoo said Thursday he has no plans to resign as Nunavut's MP, and that the Prime Minister's Office did not ask him to conceal the details surrounding his resignation from the Liberal caucus. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Former federal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo says he's not stepping down as Nunavut's MP, and that the Prime Minister's Office did not ask him to conceal the details surrounding his resignation from the Liberal caucus.

Tootoo was interviewed a day after his statement to CBC North confirmed allegations he had an inappropriate relationship before his sudden resignation from cabinet and the Liberal caucus this May.

In the interview Thursday, Tootoo said he was not asked by anyone in Ottawa to conceal the details of the workplace relationship.

"My interest is, as I said, to protect the privacy of the individual involved, and that's what I've been doing," said Tootoo.

The Nunavut MP, now sitting as an Independent, would not provide any further details about how long the workplace relationship lasted.

He cited concerns by constituents as the reason he decided to reveal why he resigned from caucus.

"Nunavummiut, since last week, have asked for, and I believe that they deserve, further explanation, and I heard that message and that's what I've done."

Tootoo was in CBC North's studio in Iqaluit on Wednesday, when the now Independent MP said: 'I made a mistake, I engaged in an inappropriate relationship, I'm ashamed of what I've done, and I'm deeply sorry and I'm looking at moving forward.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

'I don't think we can condone that,' says political rival

Calls are still coming for Tootoo to give up his seat. 

Jack Anawak, who served as a Liberal MP for the riding now known as Nunavut from 1988 to 1997, ran against Tootoo in the 2015 election as the NDP candidate.

"For people who are supporters, are we condoning inappropriate relationships? I don't think we can condone that," Anawak said.

He says Tootoo has handled the situation "poorly," pointing out his problems with alcohol likely began before he decided to run.

"If he's going to remain as an Independent, then he's not going to have the influence," Anawak said. "If he wants to test the waters about his position amongst the Nunavut people, then he should resign and run again as an independent."

'I always face challenges head on'

Tootoo was adamant about continuing his job as MP.

"I'm not about to turn around from a difficult path ahead; I always face challenges head on," said Tootoo.

"No, I'm not resigning," he said, adding he's in the midst of planning a tour across Nunavut to reconnect with constituents.

Tootoo reiterated that his status as an Independent will not impact his ability to do his job.

"Being an Independent hasn't lessened my resolve to be a voice for Nunavut in Ottawa and  I look forward to continuing to do that."

Although Tootoo signalled his desire to reconnect with the Liberal government in the fall, he stopped short of declaring his desire to rejoin the caucus.

"I'm still going to pursue, for me, what's necessary when I return to Ottawa, and that does include addressing the government," he said.

This was a change from Tootoo's overwhelming statements in support of the Liberal administration, when he said at a news conference in Iqaluit last week that he believed in the Trudeau government.

"I'm focused right now on reconnecting with my constituents," he said.

"Addressing the government is something that I'm going to be doing when I return to Ottawa in September."

'I made a mistake'

Tootoo reiterated his apology to his constituents.

"I made a mistake, I engaged in an inappropriate relationship, I'm ashamed of what I've done, and I'm deeply sorry and I'm looking at moving forward," he said.

Once again, Tootoo addressed his struggle with addiction and his decision to go to rehab.

"I recognize that I was going down a road that I didn't want to go on and in order for me to do my job properly I knew that I needed to get healthy and take the steps that I did, and that's what I've done."

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.