Paul Okalik doesn’t shy away from public spectacle. In late 2015, while Canadian Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq was speaking at a forum, Okalik—at the time Minister of Health and Justice for the northern territory of Nunavut—was seen performatively reading a newspaper. The previous year, Aglukkaq, a Conservative, had been spotted doing the same at a hearing where Liberal opposition members were testifying about food insecurity in Nunavut.

Then, in 2016, Okalik stepped down from his position in the Nunavut cabinet. Citing his own history with alcoholism, he announced to the regional legislature that he could not support a measure to permit alcohol sales in the territory without first establishing addiction treatment programs.

Nunavut became a territory in 1999, splitting from the Northwest Territories after a long series of negotiations between Inuit leaders and Ottawa. (Canada’s three territories receive their authority from...

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