Tory candidate's remarks about Nunavut labelled 'ignorance and arrogance'

Conservative candidate Richard Sagala's disparaging remarks about Nunavut, which he called "less than satisfying" and comparable to South Africa in its violence, have prompted the Liberals to ask Stephen Harper to denounce the comments.

'Violence there is comparable to South Africa,' Richard Sagala says at debate

Conservative candidate Richard Sagala's disparaging remarks about Nunavut, which he called "less than satisfying" and comparable to South Africa in its violence, have prompted the Liberals to ask Stephen Harper to denounce the comments.
'Nunavut is not that great an experience,' said Richard Sagala, a Conservative candidate in Montreal. 'The violence there is comparable to South Africa.' (Conservative Party)

Nunavut Liberal candidate Hunter Tootoo said the statements show "prejudice and ignorance and arrogance."

Sagala, the candidate for Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount, made the remarks at an all candidates meeting on Oct.1.

The comments came in response to a question about Harper's reference to "old stock Canadians" and Sagala's feelings about an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

"Twenty-five years ago I read a few books about Métis and aboriginals, and I felt very bad about this," said Sagala. "And I realized that it's a problem that seems to trail the governments, whichever are in power."

Sagala added that "the normal way of doing this is that we throw money at it, we try to send more people to talk to them."

The government's move to help establish Nunavut had not been successful, he suggested. 

"We even created Nunavut and it has been less than satisfying as far as the result goes for them," he said.  

"Nunavut is not that great an experience," said Sagala. "The violence there is comparable to South Africa.

"We tried to do some delegation of power to them and this is what happened," he added.

'Prejudice and ignorance and arrogance'

"To me, you listen to that, it's just prejudice and ignorance and arrogance," said Nunavut's Liberal candidate Hunter Tootoo. 
'It’s just prejudice and ignorance and arrogance,' says Nunavut’s Liberal candidate Hunter Tootoo. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

"It's just the way they are. To me, it's disgusting.

"It's like Harper's showing his true colours when he referred to Inuit as 'those' people. Their attitude and what they really think about Inuit and aboriginal people across this country; they don't care."

The Liberals are asking Harper to denounce the comments and for the Conservatives to apologize for the remarks.  

'Ignorance is no excuse'

"They did not create it, we just reaffirmed that Nunavut is our territory, and as such made a territory out of it through negotiations," said Nunavut NDP candidate Jack Anawak.

Nunavut's NDP candidate Jack Anawak, here next to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. says about Sagala's remarks, 'ignorance is not an excuse to make irresponsible statements.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Anawak said that Sagala should be asked to resign as a candidate.

"Ignorance is not an excuse to make irresponsible statements," said Anawak. 

"Has he been to Nunavut at all to see how it's working to date?"

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna was not impressed. "If the candidate did indeed make these remarks, then I would suggest that the comments are out of line," he said.

"I would hope that the individual, or any candidate regardless of party running in the election, would use this as an opportunity to learn more about our territory, the issues we face and the amount of progress that has indeed happened in our short time, before offering advice."

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna says the remarks made by Conservative candidate Richard Sagala were 'out of line.' (Grant Linton/CBC)

CBC contacted Nunavut's Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq. She refused to make any direct comment regarding the Montreal candidate's remarks, but did send an email statement.

"I absolutely support devolution," the statement said.

"It is one of the reasons I ran federally over seven years ago. Northerners need and deserve to be in charge of our territory."

Facebook clarification

On Tuesday, Sagala posted a statement on his campaign's Facebook page "to clarify" his remarks from Oct.1.

"I fully support the delegation of authority in Nunavut announced by the Conservative government," the post reads.

"We were the first government to develop a Northern Strategy so that northerners can make choices that affect their lives."

Sagala has not responded to a request for comment from CBC.


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