Debates of Nov. 22nd, 2021
This is page numbers 2907 - 2950 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was assembly.
- Oral Questions
- Members Present
- Minister's Statement 178-19(2): Sessional STATEMENT - November 2021
- Covid-19 Vaccination
- Progress During the 19th Legislative Assembly.
- COP 26 and the Climate Crisis in the Northwest Territories
- Government of the Northwest Territories Property Leases
- Housing Needs in Monfwi
- COP 26 and Climate Change
- Great Slave Lake Commercial Fisheries
- Progress on Housing During the19th Legislative Assembly
- Condolences on the Passing of Constituents
- Eulogy for Mary (Bernice) Bonnetrouge
- Issues Relating to First Nation Access Along Waterways
- Oral Question 775-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories COVID-19 Vaccination Policy
- Oral Question 776-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Property Leases
- Oral Question 777-19(2): First Nation Access Along Waterways
- Oral Question 778-19(2): COP 26 and the Climate Crisis in the Northwest Territories
- Oral Question 779-19(2): Great Slave Lake Commercial Fisheries
- Oral Question 780-19(2): COP 26 Outcomes
- Oral Question 781-19(2): Progress on Housing Priorities
- Oral Question 782-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation COVID-19 Vaccination Policy
- Returns To Written Questions
- Bill 23: An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Bill
- Bill 32: An Act to Amend the Northern Employees Benefit Services Pension Plan Act
- Bill 33: National Indigenous Peoples Day Act
- Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Revolving Funds Act
- Bill 29: Resource Royalty Information Disclosure Statute Amendment Act
- Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Aurora College Act
- Bill 31: An Act to Amend the Pharmacy Act
- Committee Report 17-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 23: An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act
- Tabled Document 437-19(2): Capital Estimates 2022-2023 Tabled Document 438-19(2): Supplementary Estimates (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 2, 2021-2022 Tabled Document 439-19(2): Supplementary Estimates (Operations Expenditures), No. 2, 2021-2022 Tabled Document 440-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories response to Motion 37-19(2): Creation of a Northwest Territories Food Security Strategy Tabled Document 441-19(2): Follow-up letter for Oral Question 500-19(2): Government Renewal Initiative
- Tabled Document 442-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Response to Motion 29-19(2): Systemic Racism Tabled Document 443-19(2): Follow-up letter for Oral Question 717-19(2): Disaster Navigator Recommended for flooded Communities
- Tabled Document 444-19(2): Minister of Health and Social Services Response to Letters Received From Health Care Providers Tabled Document 445-19(2): Follow-up letter for oral question 723-19(2): Mental Health and Fatigue Tabled Document 446-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 725-19(2): Medical Travel Advocate Tabled Document 447-19(2): Follow-up letter for Oral Question 744-19(2): Aging in Place with Dignity Tabled Document 448-19(2): Follow-up letter for Oral Question 763-19(2): Nursing Human Resources Tabled Document 449-19(2): Follow-up for Oral Question 764-19(2): Cancer Pre-Screening Tabled Document 450-19(2): Self-Isolation Exemption Data
- Tabled Document 451-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories response to Committee Report 13-19(2): Report on the review of the 2019-2020 northwest territories ombud annual report Tabled Document 452-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories to Committee Report 15-19(2) Report on the Review of the Auditor General's 2020 Audit of Early Childhood to Grade 12 Education in the Northwest Territories Tabled Document 453-19(2): Additional Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 497-19(2): Corrections Workplace Assessment
- Tabled Document 454-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 720-19(2): Airport Taxi Fees
- Tabled Document 455-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Response to Committee Report 16-19(2): Report on Housing Phase One Needs for Northwest Territories Homeowners and Private Landlords Tabled Document 456-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Response to Motion 30-19(2): Actions for Improved Housing Tabled Document 457-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 707-19(2): Closure of the Inuvik Homeless Shelter Tabled Document 458-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 710-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Local Housing Consultations Tabled Document 459-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 730-19(2): Flood Recovery Tabled Document 460-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 747-19(2): State of Housing in Nunakput Tabled Document 461-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 749-19(2): Suitability of Public Housing Units
- Tabled Document 462-19(2): Letter received November 8, 2021 from Multiple Constituents regarding Compensation and Incentives for Essential Workers
- Tabled Document 463-19(2): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 754-19(2): Lottery Revenues for Hay River Sporting Organizations
- Tabled Document 464-19(2): Investigation dated June 14, 2021 of the Northwest Territories Integrity Commissioner, Mr. David Phillip Jones, Q.C., into a Complaint made by Mr. Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North Tabled Document 465-19(2): Disposition Report of the Sole Adjudicator , the Honourable R. L. Barclay, Q.C. dated November 17, 2021
- Motion 39-19(2): Appointment of Member for Monfwi to Standing Committees
- Motion 40-19(2): Members of the Legislative Assembly Vaccination Policy
- Motion 41-19(2): Appointment of Chief Electoral Officer
- Motion 40-19(2): Members of the Legislative Assembly Vaccination Policy, Carried
- Recorded Vote
- Bill 36: An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Justice Act
- Bill 37: An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
- Bill 38: Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act 2021
- Bill 39: An Act to Amend the Post-Secondary Education Act
- Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
- Report Of Committee Of The Whole
- Orders Of The Day
Mr. Blake, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Ms. Cleveland, Ms. Chinna, Ms. Cochrane, Ms Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Mr. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Ms. Thom, Mr. Thompson, Ms. Wawzonek, Ms. Wayallon-Armstrong
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
November 22nd, 2021
The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.
Colleagues, welcome back to the Chamber. Before we begin, I wish to offer condolences on behalf of the Assembly to the family and friends of the honourable Robert McCleary.
Mr. McCleary began his adventure in the North in 1966, teaching across the Eastern Arctic and in Yellowknife. He served two terms at the Legislative Assembly and was elected as Speaker to the 9th Assembly in November 1979. As a Member of the Constitutional Alliance of the Northwest Territories, a group of representatives from the Indigenous governments, Indigenous-led associations, and the Legislative Assembly, Mr. McCleary helped guide the development of a new government that we now know as Nunavut.
He was well known for his musical talent and with his love of the north. He wrote many songs about the Northwest Territories. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
I would now like to welcome Members back after a long adjournment. We last convened in this Chamber on June 4th. I hope that all Members and people of the Northwest Territories had a safe summer and fall out on the land, enjoying our beautiful territory.
On October 19th, pursuant to Motion 38-19(2) and in the public interest, I announced the fall sitting would be rescheduled. The House was called to sit today almost six weeks later than scheduled. This was a decision that I made after careful consideration and discussion with the Executive Council and Members of the Legislative Assembly. The COVID-19 virus continues to affect many of our people and our communities, and my thoughts and prayers are with those communities dealing with an active outbreak, those that have overcome outbreaks, and everyone who has been affected by the COVID-19 virus.
On November 1st, the Board of Management approved the Legislative Assembly's COVID-19 vaccination policy requiring mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19. All persons who enter the Legislative Assembly building and are eligible to be vaccinated will be required to have received the full series of Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccinations or an approved combination of Health Canada-approved vaccines.
Members, I would like to formally welcome our new colleague, the Member for Monfwi.
The Member for Monfwi was elected in the by-election on July 27th. The official swearing in ceremony was held in the Chamber on August 5th with many respected Elders, friends and family by her side. The Member for Monfwi was recently the president of the Native Women's Association of the Northwest Territories for six years and a councillor for the Behchoko community government. The Member completed a bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Saskatchewan and received diplomas from the child and youth care worker program at Mount Royal College and a social work program at Aurora College. Even though it is the Member's first sitting of the Legislative Assembly, the Member for Monfwi has been actively working for her constituents and attending virtual committee meetings since her swearing-in ceremony.
Colleagues, please join me in welcoming the Member for Monfwi to the Chamber today. We are all excited to be here and working together in person for this sitting.
Thank you, Members. It is an honour for us all to be here on behalf of our constituents and all residents of the Northwest Territories. I would like to take this time to remind Members to conduct themselves in keeping with the rules of the Assembly. This respect for one another, for this institution, and most importantly for those who elected us. Treat each other with dignity and take pride in the work that we do here. We are here to serve as representatives for the people that elected us and put their trust in us.
I look forward to being able to welcome the public back into this building, however the current COVID-19 situation does not allow it at this time. Although the Assembly remains closed to the public, media are welcome in the gallery. We continue to broadcast and live stream our proceedings. We need to ensure the public has the opportunity to see and understand the work being done here on their behalf.
Now, colleagues, it is my duty to advise the House that I have received the following message from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It reads:
Dear Mr. Speaker. I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of
- Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures) 2022-2023;
- Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) No. 4, 2020-2021;
- Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 2, 2021-2022; and
- Supplementary Appropriation Act (Corporation Expenditures) No. 2, 2021 - 2022
during the Second Session of the 19th Legislative Assembly. Yours Truly, Margaret M. Thom, Commissioner.
Thank you, colleagues. Member for Thebacha on a point of privilege.
Frieda Martselos Thebacha
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege under rule 20(1).
Since the Assembly last adjourned on June 4th, 2021, a number of incidents have occurred that undermined the dignity, integrity, and efficient functioning of the Legislative Assembly. Each of these incidents arise from the conduct of the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.
As is well known, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh was recently the subject of a code of conduct inquiry. This inquiry convened on October 4th, 2021. The sole adjudicator delivered his report on November 17th, 2021, and recommended that the Member's seat be declared vacant.
The incidents giving rise to this point of privilege relate to the Member's conduct in the period leading up to, during, and since that inquiry. As I will explain, these incidents go to the heart of this Assembly's ability to function as an institution of constitutional democracy. Specifically, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has, since this House last sat, demonstrated a continuing pattern of threatening behaviour and undermines the dignity, integrity and effective functioning of the Legislative Assembly as whole, breaching all of our privileges as elected Members and undermining the democracy in the Northwest Territories.
The first threat I will discuss was issued a great many of us sitting in this room today.
The day before the inquiry began on October 3rd, 2021, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh sent a threatening message that included the following: "Whoever backed this, I'm coming for you".
This message was sent via Facebook Messenger to a group called Caucus. This Facebook group includes all MLAs except myself and the Member for Hay River South as we do not have Facebook accounts. Two staff members are also members of this group. I was made aware of this threat the following day on October 4th, 2021. Since that time, I've learned that this is not the first time the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh made threatening statements to Members or staff of the Legislative Assembly.
For example, I learned that from the Member from Yellowknife North that on August 16th, 2021, during a discussion about the process before the sole adjudicator was appointed in response to the code of conduct complaint, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh told the Member for Yellowknife that, quote, "If you come for my family, I come for you."
I also understand that on August 24th, 2021, after a phone call to the deputy clerk Glen Rutland in which the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh admitted he was intoxicated and he said, quote, "I'm sorry, Glen, I normally would do this in person but I am coming for you."
I've also learned that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh sent a text to Mr. Rutland on October 1st, 2021, in which he used a Latin phrase referring to cutting the neck off a snake in reference to an officer of the Legislative Assembly.
None of these threats were dealt with by the sole adjudicator in his disposition report released on November 17th, 2021 into the code of conduct inquiry involving the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.
It is clear to me that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's engaged in a pattern of threatening Members and staff of the Legislative Assembly. This amounts to intimidation of Members and the staff who support us in carrying out our work as elected representatives of the people of the Northwest Territories.
This threatens the Assembly's ability to discharge its legislative and deliberative functions.
The Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh is entitled to disagree with Members of this House. Disagreement and debate are a functional part here as our work here as legislators, however, this Assembly only functions when this debate is expressed with a minimum level of respect. By threatening Members and the staff who support our work, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has demonstrated profound disrespect for his colleagues and for the Assembly as an institution of democratic governance. He has also crossed the line from disagreement, which is entirely open to him, to threats and intimidation, which are not.
The pattern of behaviour by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh obstructs and intimidates the Members of the Legislative Assembly in relation to our duties as elected representatives. This breaches the privileges of both individual Members and of this Assembly as a whole.
As a Member of this Assembly, I have been directly affected by the threats made by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Although I did not directly receive the indiscriminate threat the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh sent to the Facebook Caucus group October 4th, it is clear that this threat was aimed at and intended for the entirety of Caucus of which I am a member.
This threat has shaken me. My office is located in the same hallway as the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh like many other Members of this Assembly. I travelled to Yellowknife from my home in Fort Smith for session. I am a long way from my family and community and often work well into the evening when I am in Yellowknife. I have no doubt that these threats could make any Member who receives them feel vulnerable regardless of their circumstances. But I think it is important to highlight that I and many other Members of this Assembly feel this vulnerability deeply. My feeling of physical safety has been undermined, both at the Legislative Assembly and in Yellowknife where the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh resides.
This is absolutely a breach of my individual privileges as a Member of this Assembly. The conduct I have described is also a breach of the Assembly's collective privileges.
When the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh is present, I've seen that people do not speak freely for fear of how he will react. His behaviour has created an atmosphere of mistrust and unease at the Legislative Assembly that is corrosive to consensus government and to the important work that we are all entrusted to do as representatives for the people of the Northwest Territories.
This pattern of behaviour also undermines the dignity and authority of the Assembly in the eyes of the people of the Northwest Territories.
The behaviour of the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh towards both staff and other Members would not be acceptable in any other workplace. It is a distraction from the important work we are doing as legislators and leads to the public to view the Legislative Assembly as dysfunctional and unprofessional. The time, resources, and attention Members have had to devote to dealing with these issues also distracts from Members' abilities to address the many pressing issues facing the Northwest Territories.
The standard of behaviour required of Members is set out in the code of conduct which states that Members must not only act lawfully but in a manner that will withstand the closest public scrutiny, upholding the dignity and honour of the Assembly and its Members.
The code of conduct also requires that Members treat one another and staff appropriately and without harassment.
The conduct of the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, since this House last sat, clearly fails to meet this standard.
The threats I have described clearly amounts to a breach of the privileges of individual Members and of the Assembly as a whole.
In addition to this threatening behaviour, we all became aware in the sole adjudicator's November 17th, 2021, report that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's pattern of obstructionist and intimidating behaviour continued during the sole adjudicator's inquiry. The sole adjudicator's report describes, quote, "antagonism" displayed by the Member of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, participants in the inquiry, including the sole adjudicator himself. It also constitutes breaches of the Assembly's privileges.
The report described the Member insulting participants, for example, by calling one witness a liar, describing the decision as a, quote, "legal farce." And at one point, asking the sole adjudicator at one point, "Can you guys not just get your crap together."
Although he apologized for these comments, the sole adjudicator found that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh "offered excuses for his comments rather than actually apologizing for his behavior."
Most troubling in this is the sole adjudicator's statement that the Member's comments "reflect that he does not have any respect for the participants in this inquiry and for the rule of law which is such an integral component of a democratic society."
The sole adjudicator also noted that in making these statements, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh may have breached the code of conduct by bringing the integrity of his office or of the Assembly into disrepute. The sole adjudicator did not consider these "offensive statements" when making his findings as they fell outside of the inquiry's terms of reference. However, the extreme disrespect shown by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh throughout the inquiry process is a further affront to the dignity of the Assembly.
This affront continued on November 18th in the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's press conference following the release of the sole adjudicator's report. At that press conference, he referred to the inquiry as "a colossal waste of time, resources and taxpayer money." He also stated that he was convinced that the result of the inquiry was determined before it even started. At this press conference, the Member's legal counsel also attacked many of the sole adjudicator's findings and the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh characterized the sole adjudicator's recommendation that his seat be vacated as "just a lame attempt to permit other Members to unseat him."
This clear inability to demonstrate any remorse nor any regard for a report recommending the most serious sanction this Assembly can deliver is a clear indication that the Member will not change his behaviour and will continue to demean this Assembly.
All of this behaviour is consistent with a pattern of threats, intimidation, and disrespect the Member has directed towards his colleagues and the institution itself and his failure to take responsibility for the damage this behaviour causes. It also represents contempt of the inquiry process and is properly seen as an attempt to undermine the code of conduct and its enforcement. It is unacceptable and requires sanction by this House.
Mr. Speaker, today is the first day of sitting since the events I described occurred. I am raising this matter at the earliest opportunity as required by Rule 20.
Should you rule that there is a prima facie breach of privilege and that this matter be raised at the earliest opportunity at the appropriate time, I will immediately move a motion for the seat of the Member of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh to be vacated in accordance with Rule 25. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.
Thank you, Member for Thebacha. I will now allow some debate on the point of privilege to other Members who wish to speak. Member for Yellowknife North.
Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Firstly I would like to thank MLA Martselos for bringing this point of privilege. I want to begin by explaining a bit of procedural issues for those who are watching.
This current point of privilege is not the sole adjudicator's report, it is not the motion recommended in that, this is a point of privilege to anything that was outside of the four corners of the report and as such we should not be speaking about what was within the terms of reference of that report. However, I do think that it is important that this point of privilege is raised so that the entire context for when we have the debate about the motion to remove can be provided. I believe that is why this point of privilege was brought.
I want to begin by, Mr. Norn called me rather upset and he said, "If you come for my family, I come for you."
I want to clarify when I first received this, I did not interpret it as a threat, of a physical threat, and in fact I didn't even necessarily interpret it as one directed at me, more as a general principle that if someone comes for Mr. Norn's family he comes for them. And he immediately apologized after that, and we went on to have our discussion which was somewhat amicable.
I don't believe that matter on its own would meet the prima facie test for a point of privilege. However, as the Member has raised, this is also occurred to staff and then ultimately to all Caucus members and at some point, Mr. Speaker, these general threats of "I'm coming for you" amount to a breach of our privileges to feel safe in this House, to feel safe in our jobs, and a doubt starts to creep in to exactly what that means with no explanation provided by Mr. Norn.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to clarify that I, as Caucus chair, have worked to resolve this not on the floor of the House, not in such and adversarial way, and it has been extremely difficult.
Most recently, at a December 13th Caucus meeting when these specific threats from staff were raised, Mr. Norn did not deny any of the alleged incidents nor did he apologize for them. In fact, Mr. Speaker, he became visibly upset, raised his voice during the meeting and left. Before leaving, he told Members that he would only take further questions through his lawyer.
Mr. Speaker, the idea of a Member in our Caucus saying they will not be questioned or held accountable and all questions have to go through a lawyer breaks down the fundamental way we try to resolve differences in this House. We do not operate through each other with a legal counsel. We are all here as colleagues, as equals, of the 19th Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, you have a two-part test:
Whether this was raised at the earliest opportunity; I don't believe there is any doubt about that. This is first day of session since all of these events occurred.
The second part of the test is whether these meet a prima facie case of privilege. I think that this pattern of behaviour meets that test. This is not behaviour we can let be tolerated. If there was a ruling that this does not meet the prima facie, then any Member is allowed to threaten and it is not a privilege of this House to come in here and feel safe in our workplace. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.
Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Are there others who wish to speak to the point of privilege. Member for Frame Lake.
Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake
Merci, Monsieur le President. I want to thank the Member for Thebacha for raising a point of privilege because if she did not I was going to do it Mr. Speaker. Given that this is a very serious matter, I support your decision to allow debate on this point of privilege. I will not deal with any matters that are within the scope and terms of reference for the sole adjudicator appointed to hear a complaint about a breach of conduct by the same Member.
In my view, there have been three breaches of privilege since the House last sat, and I would like to speak to each of these as separate incidents.
Firstly, there's the matter of a threatening message or text sent by the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh at 6:43 p.m. on Sunday, October 3rd, 2021. The message was sent to an internal chat board for Caucus Members and read as follows: "I just wanted to say F-you for making my loved ones cry. You squeezed my heart. Whoever backed this, I'm coming for you."
This message is now a matter of public record having been raised in the public hearing in front of the sole adjudicator. I was very concerned when I received and viewed the text on the evening of October 3rd, the night before the commencement of the public hearing by the sole adjudicator. Mr. Speaker, I was so concerned for my personal safety and that of my family that I made a complaint to the commanding officer of RCMP G-Division here in Yellowknife the next day. I want to thank the commanding officer for his immediate response as he literally called me within minutes of the receipt of my complaint by email to check on my safety and that of my family. I was contacted by an investigating officer on October 7th and immediately attended an interview. I informed you, Mr. Speaker, and my fellow Yellowknife MLAs of my complaint to the RCMP shortly after I was interviewed.
Mr. Speaker, the intention of the message from the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh remains unclear, but I was very concerned for the safety of my family and myself knowing that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh lives in Yellowknife, has been a Member of the RCMP, and has likely received firearms training.
Mr. Speaker, there's never, to my knowledge, been a public explanation or apology from the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh for this message. On the face of it, I believe this message is a breach of my privilege under Rule 20(1)(v) whereby Members have "freedom from obstruction and intimidation in relation to their duties as elected representatives." I ask that you, Mr. Speaker, find the action for the Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, in sending that message, to be a breach of my privilege.
Secondly, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and his legal counsel held a news conference on Thursday, November 18th, 2021, in which the legal counsel said the following in connection with this decision this House must make about the report and the recommendation of the sole adjudicator, and I want to quote, Mr. Speaker, the words of the MLA's legal counsel:
"Members of the Legislative Assembly, consider the precedent that you are being asked to set. We know that politicians across the country, around the world, have made similar errors to Mr. Norn and they've often suffered sanctions. But once this remedy recommended by the southern expert is imposed, if that is the conclusion, be afraid. Be very afraid. Anybody familiar with the north and its history and the very human conduct of elected representatives under the watchful eye of the people of the Northwest Territories, the gathered media in the very small towns and cities and hamlets and communities of the Northwest Territories, be careful what you wish for, because the moment you give the power to each other to dismiss one another, you not rotting of the Northwest Territories, but you give only add to the undermining of the already rotting democracy of the Northwest Territories but you give more power to the bureaucracy. This is bureaucracy driven, and if you give in to the temptation of accepting the recommendation of the adjudicator, and that's all it is, don't sleep well at night. Because it may not be tomorrow, it may be next year or next session, but some of you are going to cross the threshold and the mere threat of going through what Mr. Norn just experienced and is experiencing will undermine your ability to do your good job and Mr. Norn is exemplary in the execution of his duties and his protection of democracy, not just from the bureaucrats that run your Legislative Assembly but their southern colleagues brought in to the exclusion of your northern colleagues", end of quote, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I'm all for freedom of speech but I view these words by the legal counsel for the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh as an attempt to intimidate me in my role as a Member and that must make a decision on the report and recommendation of the sole adjudicator. While it is possible that these words could be interpreted as a cautionary note with respect to the seriousness of the issues before the House, I did not take these words in that vein. The overall thrust of the news conference and the comments made by the Member and his legal counsel were denigrating and dismissive of a process for addressing the conduct of Members, which this House has established as an appropriate process. I viewed this news conference as a clear attempt to intimidate me and other Members as we embark on the difficult journey of considering the sole adjudicator's report.
Again, on the face of it, I ask you to find that there has been what appears to be a breach of privilege under Rule 20(10)(v) whereby Members should have "freedom from obstruction and intimidation in relation to their duties as elected representatives."
I ask that you, Mr. Speaker, find the action of the legal counsel for the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh in holding the news conference and saying what he did constitute a breach of my privilege.
I do not wish to speak to what an appropriate remedy may be as that is a decision for this House to contemplate should you agree that there is a prima facie case of the breach of privilege of the Members.
Thirdly, and lastly, Mr. Speaker, I believe the privilege of the House has been breached by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh as set out in Rule 20(1)(i) where this House has "the power to maintain order and to discipline for breaches of privilege and for contempt of the House. Contempt of the House may to include disobedience to its orders, misconduct before it, affronts against its dignity and authority, and any act or omission which impedes or obstructs the House or its Members in the performance of their duties."
As discussed by the Caucus chair and the MLA for Yellowknife North, I'm aware that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh sent threatening messages, made threatening calls to our staff at the Legislative Assembly. These incidents were disclosed to Members at an in-camera discussion held during a Caucus meeting on December 13th, 2021 in relation to the findings of the recent workplace assessment. In no way can we allow, tolerate, acquiesce, or condone such behaviour and I view this as an extremely serious breach of the privileges of the House whereby our work has been impeded and obstructed, not to mention the impact on our staff.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that, on the face of it, you find these threats to the staff of the Legislative Assembly by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh constitute a breach of the privileges of the House under Rule 20(1)(i).
Mr. Speaker, the last matter you must consider in terms of these points of privilege is whether they have been raised at the earliest opportunity. Given that the House last sat on June 4th, 2021, and a point of privilege has been raised as the first order of business today, I believe you can very safely find, as required in Rule 20(5)(b) that "the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity."
I would also recommend that you take all of the submissions today under advisement but render a full and timely decision.
Mr. Speaker, I regret very much having to raise these matters publicly as I would much rather get back to working for my constituents and a better Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.
Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Are there others who wish to speak to the point of privilege. I see none. Oh, Member for Range Lake.
Caroline Cochrane Range Lake
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the events that have caused us to be here today having this debate are unfortunate. I do not speak to the matter of the Member's conduct as it relates to the point of privilege lightly. However, I must stand and speak out about what has occurred and the impact it has on Members, including myself.
Mr. Speaker, we are a consensus government in the Northwest Territories and we must operate in a productive and professional environment. Will we agree at every step? Certainly not. Will some of these debates and discussions be passionate? Certainly, they will be. However, Members agreed when they were sworn in to abide by the code of conduct and carry out our duties in a manner that will withstand public scrutiny in the course of our work, even in challenging times. As Members of the Legislative Assembly, we are also afforded privileges so that we can carry out our work. Therefore, would we expect threats from one of our Members of Caucus as part of this work? Certainly not.
The last point is what we're talking about today and why we must take action.
Mr. Speaker, earlier this fall the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh sent Members of this House, including two members of our staff, a message using unparliamentary language that I will not repeat and indicated that "whoever backed this, I'm coming for you." This was in reference to his hearing with the sole adjudicator that was about to start, and the proceeding complaints by the chair of Caucus in relation to his conduct.
When I heard these words, Mr. Speaker, I was immediately concerned. I did have to think of my own and my family's safety. Like many women who have experienced violence at the hands of men, I thought about what he would do to me if I did what I felt was right.
Mr. Speaker, we agreed as a Caucus to bring forward the complaint in relation to the Member regarding his failure to uphold our code of conduct for a specific and factual reason. It was not politically motivated despite what the Member may believe. The complaint was made because the Member had failed in his duty to uphold the code that we are all bound by. The words he sent us indicate that the following processes we all agreed to, by asking him to ensure he upholds the code of conduct, we would face retribution from the Member.
Without getting into the details of the previous complaint, our code of conduct under principle 3 states: Members must treat members of the public, one another, and staff appropriately and without harassment. Members must take all reasonable steps to ensure the work environment is free from harassment.
The words "coming for you" is surely a threat of retribution and, in my opinion, harassment against every Member of the Legislative Assembly that received this message.
As a woman I find the threat particularly troubling. Threats of violence, whether physical, verbal, or emotional, are faced by women every day. The Legislative Assembly should be where political leaders, no matter which gender, should be able to safely fulfill our duties. As leaders, we must act like it and we must treat each other professionally in order to lead on behalf of the people that elected us.
Mr. Speaker, every Member of this House has individual and collective privileges as set out in the rules of the Legislative Assembly. One of the individual privileges is to be free from obstruction and intimidation in relation to our duties as elected representatives. The Member's statement to his Caucus colleagues is unacceptable according to our code of conduct and I believe it is unacceptable according to the privileges that Members of this Legislative Assembly are afforded. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.
Thank you, Member for Range Lake. To the point of privilege, Member for Yellowknife South.
Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speak to the timeliness of the point of privilege; I don't think that's at issue. I wish to speak to really whether or not this is prima facie point of privilege which means, in other words, whether or not on its face what's been raised is such that it would obviously or clearly amount to a breach of the privileges of the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to speak first to the allegation of threats that was made against public servants and, secondly, to the allegations of the threat made against all Members offence the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, I was present on more than one occasion when I heard language used by MLA from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh towards public servants that was more than rude; it was abusive. Beyond that, Mr. Speaker, I was present for the discussion of one very specific graphic metaphor used to imply the lengths to which the MLA would go to exact his revenge against the reputation of staff if he perceived them to be acting in a manner contrary to his interests.
When trying to figure out the intended meaning of words, context is critical. The MLA, by this time, had launched a very public war against the reputation of one of the senior public officials of this building and it was publicly obvious that he intended to pursue that by methods and means of his design. I say this knowing from the publicly-available report in to the office of the clerks that MLA Norn had chose, despite being provided legal counsel, not to fully participate in that formal process and yet continued to make statements about his allegations and beliefs and to use derogatory language about those others who may have been involved.
His behaviour and his speech is that of someone who believe that the rules simply do not apply to him. Within that context, for a public servant to hear a threat that I heard from MLA Norn is going in some way, is going a long way in my view, to leave them feeling vulnerable, to leave them feeling like they would indeed have to take that threat seriously and, indeed, it would very reasonably impact their ability to discharge their duties freely and unimpaired. That, in turn, impedes the work of this House. It impedes the ability of the staff to give us difficult and unpopular advice, difficult and unpopular news, things we may not want to have to listen to but it is for the good of the people of the Northwest Territories that we understand the policies and the laws that we are here to uphold. It erodes the trust necessary for us as elected officials to use our staff to the best of their ability so that we can, in turn, discharge our duties. This is properly a point of privilege.
I'd like secondly to speak to the comments made towards all MLAs. Again, the words that are used in the context of a threat, in my view, should inform the determination of whether someone is using intimidating language or not. It is worth considering both the intention of the speaker as well as the reasonable perspective of the intended recipient. The words themselves, that of whomever backed this I'm coming for you, the "this" in my belief was the beginning of the hearing before the adjudicator set to start that next morning. In my view, that's quite clear. As for what the "I'm coming for you" means, I'll get to that shortly.
Mr. Speaker, one of our duties is to protect the integrity of the Assembly, to uphold the laws and rules that we ourselves are responsible. If we do not submit ourselves to these rules, laws, and procedures, what moral right do we have to ask citizens to follow the laws, the rules, or the procedures that have been created either by this legislature or as a result of its direction?
After MLAs had learned, along with the rest of the public, that the MLA had breached public health orders and had potentially misled the public about his actions, it was incumbent on us as those responsible for the creation of law, including the Public Health Act and the legislature's code of conduct, to take action. We did so in the form of the referral of this matter to the Integrity Commissioner. And I believe every step was taken in good faith and, frankly, necessary for the preservation of the dignity of this House. From there, the processes that followed were those found in the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. Section 107 of that act says that we, as MLAs, shall consider the disposition of that process.
By threatening all of those who "backed" the actions that launched the inquiry and the hearing, the MLA, in my view, is telling us very clearly that any further actions or statements that any one of us have to make in relation to his conduct or potential discipline under the code will be met with him "coming" for us. Very clear, Mr. Speaker, I understood those words as a message that should we continue discharge our duties by following in good faith the laws, rules, and procedures established by this Assembly, that MLA Norn will come for us when he disagrees with those laws, rules or procedures. Specifically, that he will come for us if we act in good faith, as MLAs, in an effort to discharge our duties on behalf of the people of the Northwest Territories. That leaves one last thing, Mr. Speaker.
What does it mean to say "I'm coming for you." Again, in the full context of all of what has been going on, the public statements, the media statements, the participation or lack thereof, it seems to me that this means that the speaker will be coming in some form of revenge. I believe the intention was to intimidate us emotionally and psychologically. If we look at the totality of the circumstances of all that has occurred in the last several months, I believe at minimum that the revenge contemplated was in the form of reputational attack. As politicians, reputation is essential capital to discharge our duties. For us to trust one another and for our residents to trust us, we must have reputations for integrity and honesty and decency. The scary thing about reputation is that if someone in a position of trust and authority, such as an MLA, makes public statements against someone else, even if those statements may be totally without basis or evidence, the subject's reputation is immediately at risk of reputational harm.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that MLA Norn's threat was made against us for acting in our professional capacity, for speaking honestly and frankly, for acting in our professional duties on behalf of constituents who had raised their concerns about his disregard for public health orders and process. I believe this was a threat against us for putting into motion the legal processes the legislature itself has established to deal with exactly these situations, and it is a threat of reputational harm for actions that we took in the course of our elected duties.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I believe the intention of this threat was to intimidate us into silence and inaction in our professional capacity so that we do not speak on behalf of the residents who have raised their concerns and certainly not to speak specifically in this House about the MLA's actions. In the totality of the circumstances, in Mr. Norn's conduct and including public statements, lead me to believe that should we fail to heed this threat the MLA would make every effort to cause any one of us, if not all of us, reputational harm in any manner he sees fit. For all of those reasons, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you find that there is a prima facie case for point of privilege. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.
Thank you, Member for Yellowknife South. To the point of privilege. Member for Yellowknife Centre.
Julie Green Yellowknife Centre
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to start today by thanking MLA Freda Martselos for being outspoken on this topic and raising the point of privilege that she has so eloquently raised. It's obvious, Mr. Speaker, that we all have a right to work without threats and intimidation, to not be bullied or to work with bullies. And that's not only true of ourselves; it's also true for our staff as well.
MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh crossed this line by threatening me and my colleagues in October with his "I'm coming for you" statement so much so that I did consider going to the RCMP because just weeks earlier, I had suggested that he resign and I felt that I had made myself a target by doing so. Further, I had to think twice about whether I was going to stand up and talk about it today or whether I was, in fact, enlarging the target on me.
So from my point of view, it's unambiguous. The intention of the Member was to intimidate me and everyone else who received the message in the Facebook chat. And we have not, to this point, seen him take any responsibility for his statements. Up to this point, he has yet to acknowledge what he wrote or said, let alone apologize, and this is unacceptable.
It's important to know that this is not a one-off. I'm aware from discussions with those involved that he has also threatened staff with the same language of "I'm coming for you." It's as wholly unacceptable to threaten staff as it is to threaten Members. But unlike Members, staff do not have an easy recourse. We have the opportunity to talk about this point of privilege, but staff do not have the same recourse primarily because of the power differential between the staff and the Members and also because the staff, as we all know, are here to facilitate the business and operation of the Legislative Assembly. And it's my experience that they go out of their way to do that. They, as I would sometimes say, drink a lot of bath water in order to make the institution run smoothly and overlook minor problems with procedure. This, however, is not a minor problem. This is a problem that strikes at the very heart of what we're doing.
The code of conduct, this has been cited previously, asks us to do our utmost to respect and honour all inhabitants of the NWT, and I take that to mean me and you as well, and to treat the public, one another, and staff appropriately and without harassment. Members must take all reasonable steps to ensure the work environment is free of harassment.
In this case, Mr. Speaker, I take harassment to include intimidation using the definition of "harassment" in the code that it is improper behaviour by a Member that is directed to and is offensive to any Member or employee, among others.
The code goes on to say that if the Member knew or ought to have reasonably known that he was harassing someone and that his speech would be unwelcome, then it's on him to acknowledge that behaviour, to stop it, and to find a remedy for it, whether that's arbitration, an apology, or some other form.
So for me, the situation is very clear that Mr. Norn's -- that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's behaviour has interfered with our work, and it has interfered with the work that we've been elected to do. It has occupied a tremendous amount of our time and treasure to deal with this unwanted behaviour. And his conduct is not becoming to a Member of this House. So it is my view that there is a breach of privilege here, both on the face of it, and it was raised at the first opportunity. Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.
Thank you, Member for Yellowknife Centre. To the point of privilege, Member for Hay River South.
Rocky Simpson Hay River South
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'd first like to thank the Member for Thebacha for raising this point of privilege.
Mr. Speaker, each of as Members of this Assembly was duly elected by a majority of our constituents. When we are obstructed in this House by another Member or Members to the point where our ability to work is compromised, then it is our constituents that become disadvantaged and that is not acceptable.
Mr. Speaker, I know that the point of privilege raised by the Member for Thebacha was not rushed into or taken lightly. We, as Members, must be held to a higher standard. When we break the trust of those that we work with or that work for us, and most importantly of our constituents, it is important that we recognize that error and immediately take responsibility.
In this matter, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has failed that test therefore I have to support the point of privilege put before this House on points raised by -- those by the Member for Thebacha and by those who spoke prior in which points are in no way trivial. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Help us improve OpenNWT
Please only include contact information if you would like to hear back.