Nunavut MLA Patterk Netser is no longer minister for Housing or minister responsible for Arctic College.
On Thursday, Premier Joe Savikataaq stripped him of those offices because of a post he made on his Facebook page about Black Lives Matter and abortion.
In the post Netser wrote, “All lives matter. Just thinking out loud. The movement of BLM. I wonder how many BLM ladies go through abortion and at what stage of the gestation? Are they not lives too?”
This morning Savikataaq released a statement informing Nunavummiut of his decision.
“An unacceptable social media post was brought to my attention yesterday. As a result, I have made Minister Patterk Netser a Minister without portfolio, effective immediately,” the statement said.
Unlike the federal or provincial leaders, Nunavut’s premier can’t remove a cabinet minister under its consensus system of government.
The members of the assembly vote for a premier and cabinet – after, the premier assigns portfolios.
While Netser remains in cabinet, he is the minister of nothing.
MLA’s return to the assembly on October 21, where they will decide if Netser remains in cabinet.
“The Government of Nunavut values diversity, equality and fairness for all.” Savikataaq said in the statement.
Savikitaaq is in his hometown of Arviat for the long weekend, and was unavailable for immediate comment.
APTN News reached Netser at his Coral Harbour home.
He said he plans to make his case to remain in cabinet in front of the assembly.
“Diversity is all about understanding our differences, I also respect equality. My personal views are based on my faith, separate from my job. [In my job] I have never imposed my personal beliefs on anyone.”
He was also critical of the premier’s statement about fairness for all, saying “In the premier’s press release, I think he shoots himself in the foot. I don’t think my views were respected.”
Netser is an Evangelical Christian, which is quite common in Nunavut.
Most Nunavut communities have an Evangelical Christian church.
In September 2019, a controversial American missionary, Rodney Howard-Browne, visited Iqaluit and collected money for his ministry from one of the poorest groups in Canada, Nunavut Inuit.
Netser was asked about the visit at the time.
He was quoted by Nunatsiaq News as saying, “Rodney is a friend of mine and we connect regularly.”
Howard-Browne may be most well-known for saying a U.S. Supreme Court Justice should be shot for insulting the American Constitution.
One group that was quick to praise the decision to strip Netser was Nunavut’s Black History Society, who were the organizers of a Black Lives Matter march in Iqaluit earlier this year.
They were so pleased they used a Martin Luther King quote.
“He has shown himself as a leader that really understands that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The political fallout is now spilling over, and has ensnared Netser’s adult daughter.
Malaiya Lucassie is also an Iqaluit city councilor, and was the first to write a comment of support on her father’s post.
“I had the same exact thought this morning,” she wrote. “I wondered why the City of Iqaluit did a BLM protest earlier this year when [George] Floyd was murdered by an officer… All lives matter. Why don’t we do something for everyone and not just BLM.”
A release sent out late Thursday afternoon from the mayor’s office didn’t mention Lucassie by name – but says councillors will be reminded of its racism policy at the next meeting.
“City Councillors are held accountable to following the City’s code of conduct and human rights and anti-harassment policy,” said Mayor Kenny Bell. “Council will be discussing this together at the next City Council meeting and will take this opportunity to look at additional ways to educate council on racism, biases, and other social discrimination.
“City Councillors represent the entire community and we will respect the diverse nature of all our citizens.”
Lucassie did make a statement on her own Facebook page.
While not a full apology, she does address how she feels her comments were received.
“I would like to apologize for comments I made that came across as insensitive to the Black Lives Matter movement, and to residents of our City.” She added, “As an Inuk woman, and strong advocate for all Inuit, recent events affecting Indigenous people have hit me hard and in my desire to see these issues addressed my passion got the best of me.”
Malaiya Lucassie did not return a phone call asking for comment before she issued this statement.