Willard Hagen has resigned as the deputy minister of Lands for the Northwest Territories.
Hagen, originally from Inuvik, had been the Lands department’s top bureaucrat since he was appointed to the position in May 2016.
It comes after Hagen directed a Facebook comment at Kevin O’Reilly, the incumbent MLA for the Yellowknife riding of Frame Lake where he is seeking re-election.
The Northern News Service (NNSL) website reported that the post, shared by NWT Speaker Jackson Lafferty, Hagen called O’Reilly “a white boy he thinks he has all the solutions because he is a white boy.”
Lafferty had shared a column by NNSL publisher Bruce Valpy titled “What’s wrong with Dene Land Claims.”
NNSL has reportedly since removed the comment and Lafferty’s post share was also reportedly deleted.
NNSL reports that Hagen said he is frustrated about hearing “white guys” talking about their knowledge of land claims.
Hagen reached out to CKLB Wednesday.
“I will just say I made a mistake and only honourable path was to resign. It’s a Metis code of taking responsibility for one’s actions,” Hagen said. “I love the Department of Lands and all the amazing staff and across departments. I tell you the citizens of NWT are so well served and coming from a business background, I was very amazed at their hard work and dedication.”
Premier Bob McLeod issued a statement Wednesday.
“I have accepted Willard Hagen’s resignation as Deputy Minister of Lands today. Mr. Hagen’s personal remarks do not reflect the views of the Government of the Northwest Territories, nor are they consistent with our expectations of a professional and respectful public service.”
McLeod added that he would have no further comment on the issue.
Hagen is a former bush pilot and founder of Aklak Air. He was also a former chair of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.