Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 11, 2014 - 12:11 pm

Petition proponent defends move aimed at ousting NTI president

"I’m sick of being represented as being intolerant"

SARAH ROGERS
The city of Iqaluit's decision to raise a rainbow flag last month continues to create controversy. (FILE PHOTO)
The city of Iqaluit's decision to raise a rainbow flag last month continues to create controversy. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated March 11, 2:50 p.m., second-last paragraph corrected)

Iqaluit resident Napatsi Folger says she’s sick of being portrayed as an intolerant person.

That’s how she felt after comments about a rainbow flag raised in front of Iqaluit city hall set off a heated debate about the place of homosexuality in Inuit culture.

But when Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Cathy Towtongie raised the issue again at a Baffin mayors’ meeting last week — commending a city councillor for speaking out against the flag — Folger put her foot down.

Folger posted an online petition asking for Towtongie’s resignation or termination.

“It’s absurd to me that people think that Inuit aren’t impacted by this,” said Folger, who calls herself an ally of the LGBT community. “As an Inuk woman, I’m sick of being represented as being intolerant, because that’s not how I feel.”

She said Towtongie and some other Nunavummiut send a message to the world that Inuit culture is archaic and static

“But we are all about resilience and adaptability,” she said. ““We live in a changing word and it’s a world full of LGBT (people). And they deserve full rights.”

Folger is clear that her petition is not an attack on NTI, “it’s really about the person behind the comments,” she said.

While her hope is that her petition will lead to Towtongie deciding to step down, it’s not clear if the widespread public support is there.

Since being posted earlier this week, Folger’s petition has gathered just over 100 signatures.

More than a quarter of the signatories remain anonymous and another another quarter are signed from outside the territory, making it unclear if those signatures are from beneficiaries.

One unnamed signatory asks if there is a site for support of Towtongie’s actions. “I am in full support of what she did,” reads the post. “She did not do anything wrong, this has gotten way out of proportion.”

Messages of support appear on Towtongie’s personal Facebook page; one from a lesbian resident of Iqaluit who created a Facebook page to support Nunavut’s gay and lesbian community.

“I support and admire Cathy,” wrote Sky Aurora, “regardless of what some people feel, Way to go Cathy!”

A request to speak with Towtongie was declined; an NTI spokesperson said the organization is not doing any more media on the subject.

Regardless of the outcome, Folger said she felt compelled to speak out.

She regrets not reacting during past leadership scandals, pointing to when former NTI president Paul Kaludjak was suspended — and later resigned — for misuse of the organization’s funds.

“Who are we letting run the show?” she said. “I’m sick of it.”

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