Canada's Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Hunter Tootoo, has resigned from his post and left the Liberal caucus to take time away from politics and deal with addiction issues, the MP said in a statement released late on Tuesday evening.
The news stunned the political world, coming days after Tootoo and other federal cabinet ministers participated in celebratory Liberal convention in Winnipeg - its first major gathering since the party won the 2015 general election.
“As of today, I have resigned as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and will be stepping down as a member of the Liberal caucus in order to not distract from the important work of my colleagues," Tootoo said in a statement that was distributed by the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I have decided to seek treatment for addiction issues and ask for privacy at this time.”
Trudeau said in a statement that Tootoo would be replaced by Liberal Dominic LeBlanc, who would assume the responsibilities of being the federal fisheries minister in addition to his existing responsibilities in cabinet as government house leader.
The prime minister's reaction was also greeted with skepticism from one journalist who noted Trudeau responded differently last January when Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan took time off to deal with alcoholism.
@JustinTrudeau 's two tweets about his colleagues suffering from addiction: pic.twitter.com/eAbT9zGVhX— Althia Raj (@althiaraj) June 1, 2016
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Well, this is news: Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo out of cabinet and the Liberal caucus to "seek treatment for addiction issues."— kady o'malley (@kady) May 31, 2016
Wish him well in his battle "@CBCPolitics: Hunter Tootoo resigns from cabinet, leaves Liberal caucus https://t.co/Cz8pynQcKl #cdnpoli #hw"— Bob Rae (@BobRae48) June 1, 2016
Hunter Tootoo's mother, Sally Luttmer, tells me she's more proud of her son for confronting addiction than when he was named to cabinet.— Glen McGregor (@glen_mcgregor) June 1, 2016
Tootoo was one of several rookie cabinet ministers appointed by Trudeau last fall, and had previously served as an MLA and a cabinet minister in the Nunavut Legislature.
He became the second Inuk to be appointed as a senior cabinet minister after defeating Conservative Leona Aglukkaq in the 2015 federal election, and has been very active in his role so far.
He had also been told by his department in internal briefings that core science monitoring programs of Canada's oceans had "atrophied" due to the gutting of its scientific expertise. But then he announced a hiring spree of scientists to reverse cuts implemented by the previous Conservative government.
He also helped re-establish the Kitsilano Coast Guard in Vancouver, B.C.
At last weekend's Liberal party convention in Winnipeg, Tootoo participated in a panel about sustainable development with other federal cabinet ministers.
Tootoo was also in the process of reviewing changes to the federal Fisheries Act, a major environmental law that protects bodies of water, that were made by the previous Conservative government. He also a mandate to restore protections in that law that were erased as part of the 2012 budget and the former government's plan to reduce federal environmental oversight of industry and accelerate development of oil, gas and other natural resources.