Nunavut premier moves to oust MLA from cabinet after social media posts

Two weeks after stripping Patterk Netser of his ministerial portfolios, Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq has introduced a motion to see the Aivilik MLA removed from cabinet.

MLA Patterk Netser was stripped of his ministerial portfolios earlier this month after Facebook post

Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser defends himself during a lengthy member's statement in the legislature on Wednesday. He is still a member of cabinet, but Premier Joe Savikataaq stripped him of his portfolios earlier this month and on Wednesday introduced a motion to remove Netser from Nunavut's executive council. (Beth Brown/CBC)

Two weeks after stripping Patterk Netser of his ministerial portfolios, Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq has moved to have the Aivilik MLA ousted from cabinet. 

Saviikataaq introduced a motion on Wednesday, the first full day of the fall sitting of the legislature, to remove Netser as a member of the executive council.

The MLA, meanwhile, says he is being punished because of his "Christian principles and values."

Two weeks ago, Netser was stripped of his portfolios — he was minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation and the Nunavut Arctic College — after a Facebook post saw Netser criticize Black women for having abortions. 

In the same post, he stated "all lives matter," a phrase largely seen as a criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement because it discounts the disproportionate racism that Black people face.

The post also saw Iqaluit city councillor Malaiya Lucassie, Netser's daughter, add her own comments in agreement. Last week, city councillors made a formal motion requesting Lucassie's resignation

Lucassie later said she spoke poorly while trying to call for change for Inuit, and that she didn't mean to take away from the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Minister calls motion religious discrimination

Netser stands by his comments. 

In a lengthy member's statement made prior to Wednesday's motion in the legislature, Netser said he is being punished by the Nunavut government for being a Christian, and that a democracy includes freedom of religion.  

"I am an Inuk, a husband, a family man, a hunter, a politician," he said. "I am also a Christian with strong convictions and beliefs. I have never made this secret, I am a Christian and I am pro-life." 

Netser called comments made about him by the government and media "biased, hurtful and divisive." 

"I have been stripped of my portfolios as minister in this government because of my Christian principles and values," he said.

He called his dismissal an example of lateral violence. 

"I realize my question may have hurt my fellow Nunavummiut and in some cases made people uncomfortable," he said. "My intention was to bring to light the many thousands of babies aborted." 

Premier expects member to support Netser's removal from cabinet

During Nester's speech on Wednesday, Savikataaq called a point of order to say that religion was not the issue. 

When giving notice to the house, the premier asked to have the motion voted on that day. 

But in Nunavut's consensus government, there has to be unanimous support to immediately address a motion. 

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq says his decision to demote Netser was because of racism and gender violence, not religion. (Beth Brown/CBC )

Netser alone wanted to delay the vote. And so the assembly will vote on Friday whether to return him to his role as regular MLA. 

Netser declined to comment after Wednesday's sitting. 

Savikataaq said he expects his motion to be supported by the assembly. 

"My decision was not based on Christianity or religion. [Netser's] comments were based in racism and gender violence," the premier told reporters. "That's not reflective of the Government of Nunavut's values and principles." 

If Netser is voted out of cabinet, a leadership forum would follow to elect another MLA into cabinet.

"When an issue comes up, I speak with my ministers in private first to try to resolve an issue. Obviously this was an issue that could not be resolved in that manner," Savikataaq said.  

Last week, Nunavut's Black History Society and Black Lives Matter Committee praised the premier for the actions he took. 

Also in the assembly on Wednesday, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak-Lightstone tabled a petition started by the Nunavut Black History Society. 

The petition calls for "action towards creating a more informed and welcoming place safe from the impacts of racism and discrimination," Arreak-Lightstone said. 

The petition had 685 signatures as of Wednesday.