Justin Trudeau says Hunter Tootoo resigned after 'very difficult situation'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Hunter Tootoo left the Liberal caucus to seek treatment for addiction issues after a "very difficult situation," in his first public words since his fisheries minister resigned.

Fisheries minister quits cabinet and caucus, saying he will seek treatment for addiction

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it was Hunter Tootoo's decision to leave the Liberal caucus and resign from cabinet to deal with "addiction issues." Trudeau spoke to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had little to say today after the abrupt resignation of Hunter Tootoo, the minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the night before.

"As was announced yesterday, Hunter Tootoo has left the Liberal caucus and resigned from cabinet to seek treatment for addiction issues," Trudeau said in his first public words since the resignation of the fisheries minister.

"This was his own choice after a very difficult situation and we'll have nothing further to say on the matter," Trudeau said on Parliament Hill, before making his way into his party's weekly caucus meeting Wednesday morning.

Trudeau on Tootoo resignation

6 years ago
Duration 0:21
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reads a brief statement about Hunter Tootoo's resignation from Cabinet and the Liberal Caucus.

​Trudeau did not specify what kind of addiction issues Tootoo is seeking treatment for, nor did he elaborate on the "very difficult situation."

He did not take questions from reporters.

Government House leader Dominic Leblanc, who has taken over as fisheries minister, said he had nothing more to add after the prime minister spoke.

Tootoo released a statement Tuesday night saying, "I have decided to seek treatment for addiction issues and ask for privacy at this time."

O'Regan on Tootoo seeking help for addiction

6 years ago
Duration 0:37
NL Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan sought help for his addiction issues last fall.

'He's gone silent'

Independent Senator Murray Sinclair, a former judge and the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said he would offer a sympathetic ear to Tootoo should the Nunavut MP choose to open up about his struggle with addiction.

In a phone interview with CBC News, Sinclair said he knows Tootoo and his family well but hasn't heard from them since news of his resignation was made public.

"I have not had a chance to speak to him," Sinclair said Wednesday. "But he's gone silent. He's asked to be given his privacy and I respect that."

Sinclair said while he respects Tootoo's need for privacy, he did reach out to the Nunavut MP.

"I have advised his office that if he wishes to talk, I'll be glad to sit down and chat with him."

Senator Murray Sinclair says that if Hunter Tootoo wishes to talk, he would be happy to "sit down and chat" with him. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Tootoo became the second Inuk to be appointed as a senior federal cabinet minister, after former Conservative minister Leona Aglukkaq.

The MP from Nunavut was one of eight Indigenous MPs elected to the Liberal caucus in the federal election on Oct. 19.

Tootoo is cousins with Jordin Tootoo, a Canadian professional hockey player, currently with the New Jersey Devils.

The NHL player recently authored a book detailing not only with his struggles in the league, but his continuing battle with alcohol addiction.

On Wednesday, he expressed support for the Nunavut MP in a post on Twitter.

Earlier in the day, several Liberal MPs wished Tootoo well as they made their way into caucus before Trudeau's brief remarks.

Government Whip Andrew Leslie said in French he admired Tootoo's courage and that seeking treatment was the right thing to do.

"I hope for his full recovery and I look forward to seeing him back," said Quebec Liberal MP Greg Fergus.

Power Panel: Tootoo resigns from cabinet

6 years ago
Duration 10:01
The Power Panel discusses Hunter Tootoo's sudden resignation from cabinet to seek treatment for addiction