Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 17, 2014 - 9:15 am

Nunavut MLA Samuel Nuqingaq back at work following suspensions

Member for Uqqummiut promises to take his place in legislative assembly

PETER VARGA
Uqqummiut MLA Samuel Nuqingaq signing his oath office at a ceremony inside the Nunavut legislative building in Iqaluit this past Nov. 19. Since then, two successive suspensions, imposed by fellow members, have kept him from sitting in the assembly and participating in its committees. (FILE PHOTO)
Uqqummiut MLA Samuel Nuqingaq signing his oath office at a ceremony inside the Nunavut legislative building in Iqaluit this past Nov. 19. Since then, two successive suspensions, imposed by fellow members, have kept him from sitting in the assembly and participating in its committees. (FILE PHOTO)

Samuel Nuqingaq came back to work as the elected member for Uqqummiut July 16, the day his second suspension from the legislature expired.

“It’s good to be back, working again,” Nuqingaq said July 16 from his constituency office in Qikiqtarjuaq.

Nunavut MLAs voted May 22 to suspend Nuqingaq from the legislative assembly and its committees for two months.

Members passed the motion, tabled by Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq, after Nuqingaq had a 60-day counselling program to deal with “personal issues that have contributed to the member’s unacceptable conduct.”

Nuqingaq told Nunatsiaq News that he would not comment on the counselling program, stating simply that he will provide information on this when the legislative assembly starts its regular sitting in Oct. 21.

“Everybody will know where I was,” he said.

The MLA confirmed that he attended a counselling program outside of the territory “in the South,” and returned to Nunavut July 9, a week to the day before his suspension ended.

But until he takes his seat at regular sessions in the assembly, “I don’t want to comment on that,” Nuqingaq said. “It was just for counselling, that’s all I can say.”

“My priority now is just to go back to work,” he said.

Nuqingaq hasn’t attended any regular sittings of the territory’s legislative assembly since he won his seat in last year’s territorial election.

Signs of trouble showed from the start, when he failed to show up for orientation sessions for newly-elected MLAs in November.

Nuqingaq also showed up late for the territorial government’s leadership forum that month. The assembly’s management and services board cut his wages for the absences.

Troubles continued in March, when MLAs suspended him from the legislative assembly’s winter sitting for unspecified reasons.

Court records showed that Nuqingaq faced criminal charges for assault and being unlawfully in a dwelling place, stemming from a Feb. 24 incident in Qikiqtarjuaq.

After the May 22 motion to suspend the troubled MLA, Premier Peter Taptuna told reporters that he believed Nuqingaq had entered a counselling program to deal with substance abuse.

One week after his return to Nunavut from counselling in the south, the MLA admitted he has plenty of catching-up to do.

“The entire time I was out, I didn’t keep track of anything. I wasn’t involved in anything at all,” he said. “Sixty days is a long time for being away, and not knowing what’s going on — because I wasn’t really concentrating on that.”

Nuqingaq said his focus has returned to his work as representative for the people of Qikiqtarjuaq and Clyde River.

“I have to find out what’s going on. At the moment, the majority of my colleagues are out on holiday,” he said.

“When I spoke to our clerk, he just told me to take the summer off, but I’ve been coming here (to the constituency office in Qikiqtarjuaq) whenever I can.”

With the help of constituency assistants in each community, Nuqingaq said he is getting up to speed on what he missed from the legislative assembly’s winter and spring sessions.

“It still have a lot to look up on the ledge [legislative assembly] website,” he said.

“Ever since I’ve been back, I’ve been communicating with hamlet officials in Clyde and hamlet officials here,” in Qikiqtarjuaq, he said.

The MLA said he expects to get more accomplished at the start of August, with a visit to Clyde River, where half of his constituency reside.

“I’m just going to find out more about both communities,” Nuqingaq said.

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