Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added to the mystery surrounding the sudden resignation of Hunter Tootoo, who stunned observers on Tuesday by announcing that he is resigning as minister in charge of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and quitting the Liberal caucus to seek treatment for unspecified addiction issues.
“I have decided to seek treatment for addiction issues and ask for privacy at this time,” Tootoo said in a brief statement.
“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 did not specify what kind of addiction issues Tootoo is seeking treatment for, nor did he elaborate on what he meant by “very difficult situation.”
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the 53-year-old Member of Parliament for the Arctic territory of Nunavut, had been drinking heavily at the recent Liberal convention in Winnipeg.
Tootoo became the second Inuk to be appointed as a senior federal cabinet minister, after former Conservative minister Leona Aglukkaq, who he defeated in the federal election on Oct. 19.
He is the first cabinet minister Trudeau’s young government has lost.
Adding to the political intrigue over Tootoo’s resignation is the fact that his addiction issues are being handled very differently from how they were dealt with when, earlier this year, another Liberal MP announced he was entering a “wellness program” to adopt an “alcohol free lifestyle.”
Seamus O’Regan, a newly elected MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, did not leave the Liberal caucus at the time, while Trudeau went on Twitter to say his thoughts were with his “friend & colleague” and that O’Regan had his “full support.”
This time Trudeau issued a curt statement announcing Tootoo’s departure and subsequent changes to the Liberal cabinet.
Please read my statement on the resignation of Hunter Tootoo from cabinet: https://t.co/qzc11mE74e
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 1, 2016
But there was no shortage of well wishes from Tootoo’s friends and supporters online. His famous cousin, NHL player Jordin Tootoo tweeted his support.
It takes blood sweat and tears to stand up and ask for help from a real man. @HunterTootoo admitting is the 1st step. You got this cuz.
— Jordin Tootoo (@Jtootoo22) June 1, 2016
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also relayed her well wishes on Twitter.
— Elizabeth May (@ElizabethMay) June 1, 2016
House leader Dominic LeBlanc will be assuming Tootoo’s ministerial roles in addition to his existing duties, Trudeau said in a statement.
With files from CBC News
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: The elephant in the room – Mental health in Arctic communities, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot
Finland: OECD ‘concerned’ over high suicide rates in Finland, YLE News
Sweden: County in Sweden’s North has best mental health in country, Radio Sweden
United States: In Northwest Arctic, teens lead the way in suicide prevention, Alaska Dispatch