'I am seeking help': Nunavut MLA suspended after being intoxicated in Legislature

Nunavut's Legislative Assembly voted to suspend Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk until Monday for being intoxicated in the Legislature. During a speech in the Legislature, he encouraged people to "make something out of your mistake" to "make yourself better."

Joelie Kaernerk suspended until Monday

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk was suspended by his colleagues on Thursday for being intoxicated in the Nunavut Legislature. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly)

Nunavut's Legislative Assembly has voted to suspend Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk until Monday for being intoxicated in the Legislature.

The motion, moved Thursday by Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Brewster and seconded by Rankin Inlet South MLA Lorne Kusugak, spoke of "conduct unacceptable to this House, including public intoxication."

Nunavut's MLAs have the authority to hand down discipline for incidents that happen within the precinct of the Legislature. 

The incident is said to have happened one day last week.

The motion also called for Kaernerk to "reflect deeply on his responsibilities to his constituents."

"First of all, it's unfortunate that this incident happened, and I take responsibility for my actions," Kaernerk told the House before the vote. He delivered his remarks unscripted.

"I apologize to my colleagues, to the staff here at the Legislative Assembly and I do accept the consequences of my actions. I apologize to my constituents about my behaviour, and I hope to continue to serve my constituents as MLA in the future."

'I am seeking help'

"In order to continue my work, I am seeking help," Kaernerk continued.

"I have taken that significant action in seeking help on my addiction. Take my word. I am a man of my word, and I will definitely seek help. And please do accept my apology."

Netsilik MLA Joseph Quqqiaq was the lone MLA to vote against the motion, while Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki abstained.

"I just feel he's a voice for his community, and they need a voice," Quqqiaq told reporters on why he voted against the motion, adding he felt the length of the suspension was right.

"I was a bit sad. But then, there are consequences we have to deal with. I understand [the MLAs] are following the rules. But it's that he has a great voice for his constituents."

'Never give up'

During the member statements portion of Thursday's session, Kaernerk delivered a 12-minute impromptu speech, mostly in Inuktitut, reflecting on how to overcome adversity and speaking about not giving up when people make mistakes.

"When we go through the hardest times of our lives, and the consequences we have made, it's not the end of the world," an emotional Kaernerk said.

"I want the younger generations to understand to never give up. Life is hard at times. But life can be happy too, life can be easy. But there are times that we make mistakes that we regret.

"But rather than wishing you didn't do that, make something out of your mistake and be more helpful and be more proactive in the community in order to make yourself better. When we make a mistake, it makes us realize we can be more helpful to others."