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NDP MP Romeo Saganash apologizes for public drunkenness on plane

Romeo Saganash is shown taking part in the first round of debates in Ottawa Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011.

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A New Democrat MP from northern Quebec has apologized for being too drunk to fly and says he will take time off to deal with his alcohol addiction.

Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, was escorted from an Air Canada Jazz flight from Montreal on Friday after it was determined that he was intoxicated.

Mr. Saganash said in a statement Monday, after the incident came to public attention, that it is his duty as a federal politician and a member of the NDP caucus to adhere to high code of conduct.

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"Neither fatigue nor stress can justify what I did. I need help to overcome a medical problem, a dependence on alcohol, like far too many other Canadians," he said.

Mr. Saganash is a residential school survivor and a former deputy grand chief of the Grand Council of Crees who entered the race last year to succeed former NDP Leader Jack Layton but pulled out before the March convention that elected Thomas Mulcair.

"I am not looking at excuses, but I know that profound scars were left on me because of my time in residential school. I never shied away from," he said in the statement.

"The death of my friend and mentor, Jack Layton, also greatly affected me," said Mr. Saganash. "Like him, I needed a crutch. The leadership race wore me out, on top of taking me away from my children and my loved ones even more often."

The MP apologized to the other passengers whose flight was delayed, Air Canada staff, the airline and the airport.

"Life on Parliament Hill can be hectic and exciting, but it is also full of obstacles and pitfalls. Many of my colleagues can attest to this," he said. "I have asked my Leader to give me leave so that I can take the necessary time to treat this illness."

Liberal MP Judy Sgro said she is certain that Mr. Saganash and his family are embarrassed by the incident.

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"So it's up to him to decide what level of penance he needs to provide," said Ms. Sgro. "But it's just another time where elected officials, instead of gaining respect, I'm afraid are losing it. Maybe it's the kind of frustration he feels around here because it's a very frustrating place to be in. Some people go to the gym, I guess other people decide to do different things."

Mr. Saganash is not the first Canadian politician to get into trouble with alcohol.

Liberal MP John McCallum was barred from taking a flight in 2002 because he had consumed too much wine.

Bernard Valcourt, a federal consumer and corporate affairs minister under former prime Minister Brian Mulroney, resigned from cabinet of 1989 after admitting that he was operating his motorcycle with twice the legal level of alcohol in his blood when it went out of control and crashed.

And Edmonton MP Peter Goldring quit the Conservative caucus last year after failing to take a breathalyser test. He now sits as an independent and calls himself a Civil Libertarian.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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