Nunavut politicians vote to remove minister from cabinet over social media post


 

Patterk Netser

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut’s legislature members have voted former housing and Nunavut Arctic College minister Patterk Netser out of cabinet over a post he made on social media.

Premier Joe Savikataaq put a motion forward earlier this week to remove Netser from cabinet.

Savikataaq stripped him of his portfolios on Oct. 8, soon after Netser made a Facebook post that said “All lives matter” and criticized Black women for having abortions.

The vote Friday saw 14 MLAs vote in favour and three against, with one abstention.

“It is up to us, everyone in this room, to show our commitment, to stand up against racism and gender violence. Now is that time,” Savikataaq told the assembly.

“Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. Women’s rights are human rights.”

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, who seconded the motion, thanked Savikataaq for his “swift action” to remove Netser.

“Freedom of expression does not equal freedom from consequence. The fact that the minister is still defending his position leads me to believe that there is no remorse,” Lightstone said.

In his statement, Netser apologized to the Black community but said his comments were not based on racism or gender violence.

“My reference to ‘all lives matter’ was certainly not stated in that context. And I would not have chosen these words if I knew they could be misconstrued as attempting to negate the struggles of my Black brothers and sisters,” Netser said.

Netser also said the Facebook post was an example of free speech.

“I did not make those statements in the house and I did not make them as a member of the executive council, but as an Inuk that values life.”

Netser also read a letter of support into the record from a friend, which questions whether people who criticize the government will be “picked up and shipped into the dark of the night to one of the many new internment camps across Canada.”

The letter also claims the federal government pays Canadian news media and mind control is imposed on people who speak out against the government.

Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq told the assembly he would not support the motion to oust Netser because “we do have an expression of freedom” in Canada.

“We have to think about our children and the future of our children. We have to deeply reflect on our society’s values into the future,” Qirngnuq said

Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak told the assembly Netser’s comments were concerning. And politicians can’t say whatever they want, if their words have a negative impacts on people.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Savikataaq said the decision to remove Netser was not easy but had to be made.

Because Nunavut has a consensus-style government, only a full caucus can remove cabinet members.

Netser, who represents Coral Harbour and Naujaat, is to stay on as an MLA.

A leadership forum is expected to take place next week to select Netser’s replacement in cabinet.