|NDP MP Romeo Saganash. (Philippe Doherty/QMI Agency)
OTTAWA -- Quebec NDP MP Romeo Saganash has requested a leave of absence to deal with a "dependence on alcohol" after the former leadership candidate was kicked off a plane due to intoxication.
"I need help to overcome a medical problem, a dependence on alcohol, like far too many other Canadians," Saganash said in a statement on Monday. "I have asked my leader to give me leave so I can take the necessary time to treat this illness."
Saganash's request comes after the Cree MP was booted off an Air Canada Jazz flight on Friday due to drunkenness. He says his "behaviour caused an unfortunate incident that delayed an Air Canada flight between Montreal and Val-d'Or."
"I want to apologize to the other passengers and staff for what happened and for any inconvenience I caused them," he said. "I would also like to offer my sincere apologies to Air Canada and the Aéroports de Montréal."
A spokeswoman for the airline says it does not comment on individual passenger files due to privacy reasons, but it maintains it has a "zero-tolerance policy" for "unruly behaviour" on flights.
Saganash says he is not "looking for excuses" but believes a number of factors have weighed on him personally.
"I know that profound scars were left on me because of my time in residential school. I never shied away from that," Saganash said. "The death of my friend and mentor, Jack Layton, also greatly affected me. 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."
Saganash dropped out of the NDP leadership race early due to a family illness and a shortage of campaign funds.
In 2002, Liberal MP John McCallum was unable to board an Air Canada flight due to drunkenness. McCallum, who was defence minister at the time, did not seek treatment and maintained he did not have a drinking problem.