Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, when we were elected into the Legislative Assembly by the people of the Northwest Territories, none of us got special rights by virtue of that election and by virtue of this post. None of us were put above the law, the rules, the policies whether they came from Assemblies before us, or whether they came from the legislators before us. Mr. Speaker, in my view it is quite the opposite. When we are elected it is a privilege. It is a privilege to serve, and it carries with it duties and obligations to the people who have placed their trust in us. It is always a privilege and it should be treated, in my view, as a gift.
Our code of conduct is what we use to ensure that we are providing a reasonable level of scrutiny. It's a higher level of scrutiny than what is used in many cases, and we are held to a higher standard. But in my view, Mr. Speaker, that is reasonable because we have a privilege to stand in this room. We have a privilege to be involved at the highest level of decision making. It's a gift given to us by our constituents.
Mr. Speaker, there has already been a fair bit discussed about the matter but I did, also, think very long and hard about this. And while I've tried to shorten my comments in light of all the many things already said, I do feel compelled to say something to my constituents about the reasons for my decision. I want to speak briefly about some of the facts and spend more of my time on the decision about sanction.
The facts have been very thoroughly reviewed, and I'm grateful for MLA Martselos for going through them. The adjudicator's reasons give a thorough review of the facts with respect to those matters. So just a few comments.
In the context of a time, Mr. Speaker, when we were still under a recommendation not to travel, the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh decided to travel. A lot of residents that I represent have struggled with their family and their personal needs in the face of births and deaths and made choices not to travel. On his return, the Member decided that what was supposed to be just a short breach, or certainly that's the way that he seems to be presenting it, to see his daughter was okay. A lot of residents, Mr. Speaker, have been isolated separately from their families, from their children, from their parents, and from elders for a full 14 days and in some cases more. Some of them have had to stay in isolation centres. But they've done so.
The MLA also thought it was fine to stop by the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Speaker, this is the seat of government. Members of government - staff, MLAs - come in on weekends. They come in all the time. And the idea that he has claimed to come in the evening as somehow making it less responsible, I disagree with. Although I would note, Mr. Speaker, there has been a noted absence of anyone wanting to use the word "lie." There seems to be a continual effort to say that the things that have been said simply were misleading or a mistake or a misunderstanding. But on this point, Mr. Speaker, of why someone would come to the Legislative Assembly when they should be isolating, I find it difficult to understand how you can be mistaken whether you are here at two something in the afternoon or whether you were here, in fact, in the evening. By the last day of what should have been the MLA's period of isolation, based on what the findings of fact were in the adjudication proceedings, it certainly seems that there was not a care at this point whether or not there should be further isolation or whether a number of errands could now be run.
Mr. Speaker, to me it is not a defense to say that you couldn't count the days or that you didn't understand isolation procedures at this point. These were not new rules. Moreover, as has already been I think very aptly described by my colleague from Kam Lake, in this role, having travelled somewhere with a place of high incidence of COVID, would suggest that it is incumbent on any resident to ensure that they are following the rules. But it is more incumbent on us as leaders to make every effort to follow the rules, at the very least to make some phone calls and ensure ourselves that we are doing everything right and, perhaps, simply take a cautious approach.
But it does not end there.
Now, the Member decides to make all of it public, to make the fact of his diagnosis public and, apparently, ignores the advice of our officials suggesting that he not mislead the public when he does so. And then proceeds to send public health on a goose chase of information, or lack of information. Mr. Speaker, these are the public servants tasked with keeping all of us safe, preventing community spread, and quickly identifying whether someone may or may not be a contact of COVID. This is what prevents our health care system from becoming overwhelmed and from community spread. This is what prevents risk.
Mr. Speaker, I was astounded that anyone would try to conceal their whereabouts in the midst of a global pandemic not seen in my lifetime. I am appalled that a Member of this House should behave that way.
Mr. Speaker, I am compelled to say a few comments further about constituents and their reactions. In my view, this entire debacle has showed a total lack of empathy and complete disrespect for the struggles of the residents of the Northwest Territories during COVID. These are people who have called and written to many of us in tears about the experiences that they have had making difficult choices and trying to navigate the system knowing the importance of doing so.
Many of my constituents, Mr. Speaker, have contracted COVID, particularly during the outbreak at NJ Macpherson School and they have experienced firsthand the impacts of the disease. And as for how hard self-isolation is, many people in my riding, again particularly during that outbreak, had to self-isolate not for 14 days but often for 21 days or more. I spent 14 days confined to my property during that outbreak, and it is successful, and it is tiring, and it is exhausting. But that is not an excuse and it is not an explanation. As an elected leader, I'm ashamed to think of all of the people in my riding who have made sacrifices in their choices, sacrifices they have made following public health orders despite being tired, despite being exhausted, and then for them to have to hear an elected leader blaming others for his failure to make those same sacrifices.
With respect to the matter of the threats that are before us, Mr. Speaker, this is directly tied to the matter that was referred to the Integrity Commissioner. Having seen and observed the behaviour and the language of the MLA to say anything he wants to the public, I took this threat very seriously that he was indeed prepared to come after all of us. I believed, and Mr. Speaker I continue to believe, that there is a very real possibility that the MLA will say anything to target any one of us, to target our reputations, or to make allegations or claim that may be without merit or without base and to which we will all be ill prepared to respond because there is no way to respond to that. We are now all facing that threat and continue to do so.
Having heard my colleagues yesterday and again today, Mr. Speaker, far worse to me - far worse to me - is that the MLA created an atmosphere of fear. Not only the possibility of silencing my colleagues but, has in fact - in fact - already impeded their ability to bring forward the matters important to their constituents.
The claim that we are doing something undemocratic by acting on the laws established by the Legislative Assembly is without merit. The MLA has himself done something, in my view, undemocratic by silencing those who are brought here by their constituents to speak on their behalf.
The apology that came yesterday is notable because it came only in connection with further deflection for actions and decisions, saying that the words were taken out of context. Mr. Speaker, we are the context. We were the context, and I do not accept that explanation.
Mr. Speaker, I want to finish by speaking about sanction and my views on what the proper sanction for conduct in this circumstance should be.
I've spent a decade of my life working in the criminal justice system, Mr. Speaker, and that certainly impacts how I approached this discussion and how I approached this decision. And in my view, I will say at the front end, sanction should never be for revenge and it should never be for punishment. Those are hollow. What I have learned in my professional experience is that we should aim to deter wrongful conduct of the individual and we should aim to deter others from the wrongful conduct in question. And in this context, I would add to that, that we should also ensure that we protect the integrity of the Legislative Assembly as the house of government.
Mr. Speaker, I will agree it is difficult to find precedent that captures the full range of actions that we are dealing with here today. But I do have a couple of recent examples from the situation from the context of COVID that I would like to refer to.
Kamal Khera was a Member of Parliament. She had volunteered at a nursing home as a trained nurse during the early stages of COVID. She was bathing and changing residents on an infected ward of a seniors' residence. Then her father died followed weeks later by her uncle. And so she flew to Seattle last Christmas break in order to attend family memorials. This of course was at a time when flying out of the country was contraindicated. Mr. Speaker, she did not break a single rule. She did not lie. She did come back and apologized for her travel and she then stepped down from her parliamentary roles.
Mr. Speaker, the Ontario Finance Minister also decided to go on vacation last winter. It was a sunny vacation with his family and he did seem to suggest by social media that perhaps he was at home sitting by a fire in a sweater. Well, when that came out, Mr. Speaker, he flew back early. He publicly accepted responsibility for bad choices. He publicly apologized, and resigned his Cabinet position. Neither of them broke a single law. Neither of them lied. Neither of them threatened their colleagues.
So as far as deterring others, I was left in a situation where it seems to me that there were few precedents, because I think as has already been noted, quite often politicians don't get this far. They do wind up resigning or being encouraged to resign by their parties or by their governments.
I would just make one last side note on this, Mr. Speaker. The number of other professions that also have to govern themselves - lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants, geologists, architect, and many many more all have codes of conducts and all are self-governing professions. They all sit in judgment of their colleagues. It is their duty. It is not easy but they are asked to do it. Self-governing professions deal with codes of conducts because they understand the role that is played by their colleagues. And of course in our case, as was I think amply and very ably described by MLA O'Reilly, that process is found in the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. But on that note, Mr. Speaker, this is not just another job and it is not just another profession.
Fundamentally, in my view, Mr. Speaker, we are here because of actions and choices made by the MLA from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. But I still ask myself what is the minimum response that we could use that could deter any further conduct. Removal is the ultimate sanction. Mr. Speaker, I see no other path forward by which the MLA will accept any responsibility for anything that has occurred, for the harms done to anyone, including my colleagues, public servants, or damage to the integrity of the Assembly.
There have been four reasons offered, among many, but four in particular offered as to why there should be no sanction whatever. And so in conclusion I am going to run through quickly for you, Mr. Speaker, those four reasons and why I reject all of them.
MLA Norn has suggested that this process is politically motivated. There has been very little explanation as to what political gain any of use might have. If these recommendations are accepted, there will be a by-election and that is the political result. If anything, this drawn out process has been nothing but political embarrassment to every single one of us. That we've had to sit through such open disregard and disdain for the totality of the process contained within the Legislative Assembly Act is politically embarrassing. We are asking our residents to respect our authority for governance and for laws and policies and yet one of our own has shown nothing but blatant disregard for legal process created by this legislature. There is simply no political gain.
Second, Mr. Speaker, there's been a suggestion that this entire process is retribution because the MLA had previously made an unrelated allegation against the clerk of the Legislative Assembly. My own recollection of the events that began that incident, Mr. Speaker, began in the context, again, of all of us being witness to. Yet the allegation was serious, it was taken seriously, taken seriously to the tune of having hired one of the most respected and well-refuted human resource investigative firms in this country. Unfortunately, despite that very process, the MLA turned his back on the process thereto apparently failing to fully participate or complete the interviews and ignoring correspondence in regards to that investigation. The only threat of commonality I see between the MLA's complaint against the clerk and the complaints that bring us here today is this: It's the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's choices, actions, and decisions and his attitude about the rule of law and fair process and whether that should apply to him.
The third is that the sanction here is a product of a southern adjudicator who simply could not understand the context of the North. Mr. Speaker, there are a great many things different between North and southern Canada, between rural and urban Canada, between the east and the west and the three different oceans that surround us. Mr. Speaker, the role of a leader does not change based on your place of residence, your ethnicity, your party. The evidence that was called was from witnesses in this community within a process designed and made by this Legislative Assembly and the application of that law to those facts is what is now being scrutinized by Members of the Legislative Assembly. And so this line of defense, in my view, has no merit.
My fourth and last comment, Mr. Speaker, is again on that idea that nothing similar, no similar precedent exists, and nothing like this has ever occurred. Indeed, MLA Norn's counsel had the instructional latitude to go far as to tell all MLAs that we should be afraid, be very afraid should we act on this lawfully considered recommendation by a senior member of the judiciary in the course of our deliberations here.
Mr. Speaker, no MLA should ever be afraid to act in good faith on the advice of a senior official, or on the recommendations of a senior jurist in order to discharge our legal obligations as Members of this House. I find that threat from a member of the bar on behalf of the MLA to be repugnant, and I reject it.
Last, Mr. Speaker, in considering appropriate sanction is, again, to maintain the integrity of this House. Mr. Speaker, there are significant aggravating features to the breaches of the code of conduct that are before us. And one, again, is that the MLA has shown total disregard for the rule of law, democratic institutions including this Assembly, Members and staff, since the start of the process. I do not agree with every law, rule, or process or policy of government. That is why I ran to be in government, so that I could go about seeking change. It was sad to hear and see an elected official behave the way the MLA did throughout the inquiry having publicly maligned that process in making unsubstantiated claims of bias and impropriety against the adjudicator, the adjudicator's counsel, and at least one witness, all while still an elected legislator responsible to uphold the integrity of our democratic system, the rule of law, and the integrity of this Assembly.
Also aggravating is the MLA's apparent indifference to the context within which all of this began. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Twelve residents of the Northwest Territories have died as a result of COVID-19, Mr. Speaker, and many more have seen their lives deeply disrupted by this disease or by the measures that were put in place to keep this plague at bay. And for someone in a position of public leadership during this pandemic to be so careless with the orders is aggravating and dangerous to the cause of public protection during this worldwide crisis.
And so in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I did ask myself if there was some residual reason or argument that might be mitigating, but there is nothing mitigating that I can find. The MLA's blameworthiness, lack of responsibility and deflection leave me feeling that I have no choice other than to stand today. I do not believe the MLA will come to any sense of understanding about any of these matters. I expect he will continue to cast the net of blame far and wide.
Mr. Speaker, I started off very angry some months ago about what was happening. I have come to a point today where I am very sad. I do hope sincerely that someone can get through to my colleague MLA from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh but it will not be any one of us here. I am left in the position I did not ask for, I do not like, but in my review of the code and considering my role as an MLA and considering my role as a representative of people, I see no option in the circumstances but to accept the recommendations of the adjudicator and to be in favour of this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.