Hunter Tootoo resigns as fisheries minister, leaves Liberal caucus

Hunter Tootoo has resigned from his position as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to seek treatment for addiction, according to a statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Statement from prime minister says Tootoo will take time to seek treatment for addiction

Hunter Tootoo issued a brief statement Tuesday evening: 'I have decided to seek treatment for addiction issues and ask for privacy at this time.' (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo has resigned from his position as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

The release says Tootoo will be taking time to seek treatment for addiction issues.

Dominic Leblanc will assume the role of minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, in addition to being government House leader.

Tootoo released a short statement this evening.

"As of today I have resigned as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and will be stepping down as a member of the Liberal caucus in order to not distract from the important work of my colleagues," the statement read.

"I have decided to seek treatment for addiction issues and ask for privacy at this time."

Tootoo became the second Inuk to be appointed as a senior cabinet minister after defeating Conservative Leona Aglukkaq in the 2015 federal election.

He had previously served as an MLA and a cabinet minister in the Nunavut Legislature.

Tootoo became well-known in the House of Commons for passionately and personally speaking to issues that affect his constituents, including the territory's suicide crisis, as well as for wearing a sealskin bow tie to a state dinner at the White House earlier this year. 

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

"I think he did a very good job of representing Nunavut, whether he was in Washington and wearing sealskin and other stuff, and that's good.

"I guess the tragedy would be that by leaving the Liberal caucus we won't have our member of Parliament in the governing party and that would be too bad."

Anawak said he himself has also sought addictions treatment in the past. 

"People going through addictions always have something heavy on the their mind, and being in addictions treatment is a way to get that load off and come back in a better shape than when you went in.

"It's a big step and it's good to do that."