This is page numbers 2951 - 2988 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 public.


Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek. Ms. Weyallon-Armstrong

The House met at 1:30 p.m.



Page 2951

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, before we continue with orders of the day, I will be issuing rulings on two matters. First, I will be delivering my ruling on the point of order raised by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh yesterday. After that, I will issue my ruling on the point of privilege raised by the Member for Thebacha.

Thank you, Members, I will now provide my ruling on point of order raised by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. The Member rose on the point of privilege about comments made by the Member for Frame Lake during debate on the Member for Thebacha's point of privilege. I clarified at that time that it would be more appropriate for the Member to rise on the point of order, which he agreed to do, citing Rule 24(h): A Member will be called to order by the Speaker if the Member makes allegations against another Member, a House officer, a witness, or a member of the public.

On page 13 of the unedited Hansard, the Member stated, "Just going back to what I was saying, the Member for Kam Lake mentioned my lawyer, and he can't be here to defend himself." It should be Member for Frame Lake. So I did ask that he retract what he said about that. I assume he was referring to the Member for Frame Lake here.

During debate on the point of privilege raised by the Thebacha, the Member for Frame Lake quoted at length the comments made the Member's legal counsel at a November 18th news conference that was called by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh at the Legislative Assembly. Rather than repeat the Member for Frame Lake's full statement during the debate of the point of privilege, I will point out the following excerpts from page 5 of unedited Hansard.

"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 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."

I provided the Member for Frame Lake an opportunity to explain his remarks pursuant to Rule 25(4). In doing so, the Member provided the following explanation for his comments, taken from page 13 of the unedited Hansard, "All I did was simply quote comments that his legal counsel made at a news conference. I should be able to reference comments made from someone outside this Assembly."

Members, Rule 24(h) does not say we cannot make reference to anyone who is not a Member of this place. We do that all the time. The rule states that we cannot make allegations against another Member, our staff, a witness, or a member of the public.

I see no issue with the Member for Frame Lake making reference to public comments and statements made by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh or his legal counsel. The comments were made in a very public and open forum, and reported by many news outlets. They were specifically directed at the Members of this House.

The Member for Frame Lake did not make allegations against the Member's legal counsel, but rather said how the comments made him feel. While it may have been better for the Member to have raised a separate point of privilege regarding the words of legal counsel, it is at least understandable why he combined them with his other comments. The privileges of Members can be infringed upon by people outside of this House. A point of privilege is the proper place to raise these concerns and there is no point of order.

Now on the point of privilege.

On November 22, 2021, the Member for Thebacha raised a point of privilege alleging that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh had made threats or otherwise intimidated her and other Members.

It was a very robust debate that included participation by the Members for Yellowknife North, Frame Lake, Range Lake, Yellowknife South, Yellowknife Centre, Hay River South, Kam Lake, Hay River North, Inuvik Twin Lakes, Inuvik Boot Lake and the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

As Speaker, I am to determine whether the point of privilege has been raised at the earliest opportunity and whether there is a prima facie point of privilege; in other words, at first glance the matter appears to be a breach of privilege and warrants immediate consideration by the Assembly.

Those are the Speaker's responsibilities under Rule 20(4) when a question of privilege is raised.

On the first point as to whether it was raised at the earliest opportunity, I find that it was. The events that the Member for Thebacha and other Members referred to all occurred after the Assembly adjourned on June 4th, 2021. Monday, November 22nd, 2021, was the first day that the Assembly sat since then. Accordingly, the point of privilege was raised at the earliest opportunity.

On the second requirement, the Speaker's role is to determine if there is a prima facie question of privilege. Because this is a very serious matter, I want to explain the Speaker's role here.

In House of Commons, Procedure and Practice 3rd Edition, at page 147, the authors quote a former clerk who described the responsibility of a Speaker at this stage as "the Speaker's role ought to be explained, and it is that the issue put before the Speaker is not finding a fact. It is simply whether on first impression the issue that is before the House warrants priority consideration over all other matters, all other orders of the day that are before the House.

In raising her point of privilege, the Member for Thebacha referred to a Facebook message sent to Caucus by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. She read part of it, and the Member for Frame Lake filled in the rest of the statement which reads: "I just want to say F you for making my loved ones cry. You squeezed my heart. Whoever backed this, I'm coming for you." I have edited the profanity in the message.

This message was sent on October 3, 2021, by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh - the day before the inquiry by the sole adjudicator was to commence.

When examining the rules and authorities, it is clear that intimidating, threatening, or molesting Members can give rise to a breach of privilege. As was pointed out during the debate, Rule 20(1)(v) of the Rules of the Northwest Territories Assembly states, in part, that "The privileges of Members include: (v) freedom from obstruction and intimidation in relation to their duties as elected representatives."

Rule 20(1)(l) addresses this subject when it states "The privileges of this House include: (l) the power to maintain order and to discipline for breaches of privilege and for contempt of the House. Contempt of the House may 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. Technically, to intimidate, threaten, or otherwise obstruct a Member may be considered a contempt of the Assembly.

In House of Commons Procedure and Practice 3rd edition, the authors say, at page 108, that while such actions are technically contempts since these matters relate so closely to the right of the House, to the services of its Members, they are often considered to be breaches of privilege. It doesn't really matter how it is characterized. If the Speaker finds a prima facie question of privilege, it is treated the same way whether it is a contempt or a point of privilege.

In this case, we have heard that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh made threats to Members of Caucus. Eleven Members stood in this Assembly yesterday on the point of privilege. Most said they felt threatened or intimidated. Some indicated they were fearful because of the actions of the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. I was especially struck by the comments from the Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes who expressed very real fear about travelling to Yellowknife or participating in committee proceedings.

I find that there is a threat to Members as it related to their duties as Members. Sending a message to Caucus, a body composed of elected Members, affirms this view. Furthermore, the message was sent the day before the hearings of the sole adjudicator began into the complaint against the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

The sole adjudicator's role is set out in the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, but he is like the Integrity Commissioner as an officer of the Assembly and covered by privilege. The adjudicator's role is to perform duties for Members.

It is a necessity in our democratic system that Members be able to exercise their freedom of speech without fear of intimidation or threats. This Assembly must be a safe space for all. Certainly, Members may be criticized for what they say but that is part of our democratic system. Threatening or intimidating Members goes well beyond free speech.

Also, there were allegations that the Member threatened officers of the Assembly. These officials have no voice in this Assembly.

The allegation is that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh said something to the effect that he was coming for a deputy clerk of the Assembly. The second allegation is that the same Member referred to cutting the head or neck off a snake in reference to an officer of the Assembly.

In his book of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada 2nd edition, Joseph Maingot says, at page 232, "Officers of the House of Commons, while in the execution of their duties, receive the protection of the House in the event they are interfered with, molested, intimidated, or assaulted. It is as much a prima facie point of privilege to threaten or intimidate an officer of the Assembly as it is a Member.

Finally, I would point out that none of the Members who spoke denied that threats had been made. Even the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh did not deny that he made the statements that led to this point of privilege. He apologized, but it wasn't clear what exactly he was apologizing for. In this Assembly, an apology doesn't end the matter on a point of privilege.

Accordingly, I find that there is a prima facie question of privilege and, as I said earlier, it was raised at the first opportunity.

Any Member can now propose a motion under Rule 20(5) or can give notice of a motion calling upon the Assembly to take action on the matter or referring the matter to a committee of the Assembly no later than the end of sitting day tomorrow. Thank you. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My motion is:

WHEREAS the Speaker has ruled a prima facie matter of privilege exists in reference to the point of privilege I raised on November the 22nd, 2021;

AND WHEREAS in his disposition report, the sole adjudicator has recommended that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's seat by vacated and whereas the disposition report of the sole adjudicator was laid before the Legislative Assembly by the Speaker at the first opportunity in accordance with section 106(4) of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, that in order to protect the dignity, integrity, and efficient functioning of the Legislative Assembly which has been undermined by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh on unacceptable pattern of intimidation and threatening behaviour towards other Members and Assembly personnel and by his actions as described in the sole adjudicator's disposition report as tabled in this Assembly on November 22nd, 2021, the Assembly order that.

(a) the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh be expelled as a Member and his seat be declared vacant; and,

(b) the Speaker informed the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories of the vacancy in that constituency immediately following the adoption of this motion.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the mover of this motion to expel the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh from the Legislative Assembly. I do not move this motion lightly. Expulsion is the most serious sanction this Assembly can impose to discipline a Member. In this case, it is the only appropriate sanction for the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh who has been found to have been committed a grievous breach of our code of conduct and who has breached the privileges of other Members and of the Legislative Assembly as a whole.

This misconduct is not limited to a single incident. As I described in my November 22nd, 2021 point of privilege, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has engaged in a pattern of intimidating, threatening and insulting behaviour directed at Members and staff of the Assembly, as well as at the sole adjudicator and others involved in the inquiry into the Members breaches of the code of conduct.

The Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has also been found, after a lengthy public hearing in which he was represented by legal counsel, to have committed a serious breach of the code of conduct by leaving his place of isolation before the end of the period set out by the Chief Public Health Officer and by misleading the public about these actions. These findings, and the evidence that supports them, are set out in great detail in the sole adjudicator's report which was tabled in this House on November 22nd, 2021. These many incidents must be understood as a pattern of toxic behaviour. The theme connected to these incidents is a profound disdain and disregard for the rule of law for Members and staff of the Legislative Assembly and for the institutions by which we govern ourselves in the Northwest Territories.

The sole adjudicator's report contains many examples of the Member's disdain for the rules we must all follow. They extend far beyond specific allegations that gave rise to the code of conduct complaint. They also include unacceptable behaviour during the inquiry itself such as insulting and intimidating participants and attempting to delay and obstruct the inquiry process.

This pattern also extends to the sole adjudicator's findings that the Member committed serious breaches of the code of conduct.

The sole adjudicator found at paragraph 248 of the report that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's "actions in misleading the public regarding his compliance with a self-isolation order are unethical and highly inappropriate as they violate the public trust reposed in him".

The sole adjudicator found that the Member knowingly made a number of false and misleading statements including being dishonest with public health officials about his whereabouts during his self-isolation period. Although the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh apologized for attending the legislature when he was required to be self-isolating on April the 17th, 2021, the sole adjudicator found that this was not a real apology as the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh "minimized his actions and failed to take responsibility for the breach."

The sole adjudicator also noted that this apology came for the first time on the second last day of the hearing, leading him to conclude that this apology was made to win sympathy and was not in good faith.

The sole adjudicator found that in breaching the mandatory self-isolation period and misleading the public about his compliance, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh "has not performed his duties of office in such a manner as to maintain public confidence and trust in his integrity."

This failure of integrity also arises in the incidents that I raised in my point of privilege. These include threats the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh made against Members and Assembly staff in August and October of this year. They also include the Member's misconduct towards those involved in the code of conduct inquiry, including the sole adjudicator himself, by attempting to obstruct and delay the proceedings and insulting and intimidating participants in that process. In each of these incidents, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh undermined the effectiveness, efficiency, and dignity of our institutions of governance, including the very instruments by which Members hold each other accountable in order to ensure the dignity of our offices and of the Assembly as a whole is maintained.

These incidents continue as recently as last Thursday, November the 18th. The Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh gave a press conference in this very building at which he referred to the inquiry was a colossal waste of time, resources, and taxpayers money. He also stated that he was convinced the result of the inquiry was determined before it even started. The Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh characterized the sole adjudicator's recommendation that his seat be vacant as just a lame attempt to permit other Members to unseat him. This continued attack on the integrity of the inquiry must also be understood as an attack on the code of conduct that the inquiry was tasked with applying. The Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has engaged in a sustained campaign to undermine the proper adjudication of the code of conduct complaint that triggered this inquiry which was made at the direction of Caucus. It demonstrates that instead of taking responsibility for his actions, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh prefers to attack the institutions that he perceives as a threat to him.

This has gone on long enough and cannot be tolerated any longer. The only suitable sanction for this behaviour is that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh be expelled from the Assembly. He has been given opportunities to explain his behaviour, both confidentiality in Caucus meetings and publicly through the inquiry process. The Member of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has not taken these opportunities to apologize or explain. Instead, he has continued to use offensive conduct all while minimizing and making excuses for his behaviour.

His behaviour has not changed. And I have not seen any indication that it will change or stop. This behaviour cannot be permitted to continue. It betrays the trust and confidence the public places in all of us and brings the integrity of the Member's office and the Legislative Assembly as a whole into disrepute. It is a very serious breach of privilege and it requires the most serious sanction available to this House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I want to thank the Member for Thebacha for raising a point of privilege yesterday and now this motion to deal with a remedy and the disposition report of the sole adjudicator. This is a very serious matter, and I would much rather devote attention to my constituents in making a better Northwest Territories, but we must protect the integrity of this institution and our staff.

I chaired the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures in the 18th Assembly that developed a new, more rigorous and legally binding code of conduct. This was done at the direction of the House, and many of our constituents. The code was also incorporated into the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act amendments that included changes to modify the oath sworn by Members to include specific obligations, clarify the conflict of interest regime in respect of Members and former Members, require the adoption of the Legislative Assembly of a code of conduct that established standards for the conduct of Members, require Members to comply with any code of conduct adopted, and create the office of the Integrity Commissioner to carry out the duties of the former Conflict of Interest Commissioner as well as similar duties in relation to the code of conduct and hear complaints from many members of the public or MLAs.

The rules and procedures committee also reviewed and recommended changes to the Elections and Plebiscites Act that were used in the first time in the 2019 general election, including the following:

Section 80, a nomination paper for the nomination of a person to be a candidate must.

(a) be in the approved form which must include a copy of the code of conduct adopted under section 74.1 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act and information respecting the conflict of interests requirements under part 3 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act as they relate to a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

(b) contain a declaration that the person being nominated has reviewed the following information that shall be made available by the chief electoral officer.

(i) the code of conduct adopted under section 74 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act.

(ii) information respecting the conflict of interest requirements under part 3 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act as they relate to a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, what all that means is that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh knew about the code of conduct before he became a candidate in the last election and declared that he had reviewed it and the conflict of interest requirements for MLAs. After his election, he signed an oath of office that states "I hereby affirm, subscribe to, and agree to follow the code of conduct adopted by the Legislative Assembly."

A sole adjudicator has now conducted a public inquiry into an alleged code of conduct by the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and has recommended to the House that the Member have his seat declared vacant or, in plain language, be expelled or removed as an MLA.

I personally watched the entire public hearing from start to finish. I fully accept the report of the sole adjudicator and his recommendation. I thank the sole adjudicator and all those who assisted or participated in that thorough and fair process.

I do wish to speak to comments that have been made about whether the House has the authority to discipline its Members and whether that authority should be modified in some way through so-called recall legislation.

It is commonly accepted in all Westminster-style parliamentary democracies, including this House, that Members retain the ability and duty to discipline themselves. The House of Commons has expelled Members on four occasions: Louis Riel in 1874 and again in 1875 when he was re-elected. For the record, Mr. Riel is one of my personal heros. In 1891, Thomas McGreevy was accused of corrupt practices and was found guilty of contempt of the House and expelled. In 1947, Fred Rose was convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act and was sentenced to serve six years in prison so the House declared his seat vacant. There's also been a number of other cases where disciplinary actions were started, including expulsion, but the Member in question resigned. Expulsion is obviously not common but a necessary remedy. According to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice 3rd edition, "the purpose of expulsion is not so much disciplinary as remedial. Not so much to punish Members as to rid the House of persons who are unfit for membership." I believe this is the case for the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh based on the issues I and others raised yesterday during the debate on the point of privilege and also what the sole adjudicator has told us.

On the issue of whether recall is a better or more appropriate way for discipline of Members, recall legislation was examined during this Assembly by the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures which I chaired at that point and on which the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh serves. I would like to quote one section of the committee report on recall legislation as tabled in this House on February 23, 2021. "Both the chief electoral officer and Mr. Wasylciw recommended consideration be given to recall legislation. British Columbia is the only Canadian jurisdiction with recall legislation and since 1995 there has been only one petition with enough signatures to trigger a recall election. The MLA in question resigned prior to this happening. BC requires 40 percent of eligible voters in the electoral district to sign recall petition. Alberta indicated it would introduce recall legislation but it has not done so yet. The committee notes that the purpose of recall legislation is not to overturn the results of an election because one candidate lost but to address concerns about an elected Member's conduct. The committee points to the new code of conduct which empowers residents to raise concerns with the Integrity Commissioner if a Member is not seen as doing his or her job, has behaved in a way that does not uphold the integrity of the House, or if the Member is in a conflict of interest.

The Integrity Commissioner has the power to investigate and convene an inquiry under a sole adjudicator if the concern warrants it. The sole adjudicator can recommend that a Member be removed from office. Through the broad scope, the Integrity Commissioner has to start an investigation, the committee feels this is a more prudent use of public funds to deal with a concern around a Member's conduct than a costly and time-consuming recall election and subsequent by-election.

The committee notes that information pertaining to the code of conduct must be provided to all candidates while the CEO has recommended that her office should not be required to circulate this information. The committee believes the CEO is the best person as she is responsible for providing other documents with respect to candidates as part of the nomination process," Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any work on or consideration of recall legislation in this House. I would not support such a bill if it came forward given our robust and thorough code of conduct system now in place. I recognize and knowledge this entire situation has been very difficult on all of us, including the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and his family, our staff, and this institution. We must act in a matter that protects our staff and begins to rebuild public confidence in consensus government. I very much regret that it has come to this point. Mr. Speaker, I'll be supporting the motion. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, as I stand here as a Member of the 19th Legislative Assembly, I have to speak to a motion that I seconded and that I support to remove another Member. I do this with great sadness. When we were elected here in this House and signed in front of our friends and our family and the people of the Northwest Territories, the oath of office and each of us affirmed and subscribed and agreed to follow the code of conduct adopted by the Legislative Assembly. A code of conduct that was established, as my colleague had given the history of it, by the 18th Assembly on August 21st, 2019 it was tabled in this House, days before we were elected, which had not been updated since the 14th Legislative Assembly. This code of conduct was created to ensure that NWT legislators kept themselves to the highest standard, upheld the integrity of this institution. What I have felt in this time that we've been going through a lot of this, the Integrity Commissioner over the last couple of years, the threats on staff, the threats against Members, this is not upholding the integrity of this institution and as a Member.

The first point I would like to make of this point of privilege is the threat that was made to all Members on October 3rd, 2021, six days before I was to arrive to Yellowknife for session.

As an Indigenous female, the stats, as my other colleague had stated, of violence are stacked against me especially when I live and I come from the Northwest Territories. I never once did think that I would be threatened in this House where we as legislators are working on one of our priorities to make sure that the NWT is a safer place for Northwest Territories, for women.

As a Member of this Legislative Assembly, I never thought I would be threatened in my job. I thought, yes, I would debate. Debate would get heated. At the end of the debate, take some time. I've done this with many colleagues in the room, you know, but never once has it come to a threat. I spoke in this House yesterday, and I am on the record and I do not feel the need to repeat what I said yesterday only that the threats have impacted me to fulfill my duties as a fully participating in my role as a Member of this Legislative Assembly.

I have known Mr. Norn for two years in this House, and from what I do know of him is a pattern of behaviour when he doesn't get his way, he lashes out in person, he utilizes the media against staff and Members, and as well through threatening messaging to staff and Members. So as per the rules of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, Mr. Norn has breached my privilege under the Section 20(1)(b) freedom from obstruction and intimidation in relation to the duties as an elected representative and no person in any job, role should be threatened or intimidated while doing their job and therefore I support this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Range Lake.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Each one of us has a critical decision to make today. It's unfortunate that we're at this place, however as Members of this legislature, it's now up to us to decide what way forward will be. The Speaker has ruled on the point of privilege and found that the Member's comments breached the privilege of Members of this legislature. Threats and harassment are not appropriate for any Member to use against other Members and the staff who provide support to us in our work.

Mr. Speaker, this threat affects us all but I would argue it affects women Members and staff greater. Mr. Speaker, we live in a territory where our rates of family violence are second highest in the country. We live in a society that women have, for too long, been ignored in their cries for help.

Mr. Speaker, it's not okay to threaten anyone. And we cannot say we want to address the unacceptable levels of violence against women if we allow or justify our leaders to do the very actions that we collectively say are not okay. These actions are not acceptable and cannot be justified and there needs to be consequences for these actions.

We also have before us, Mr. Speaker, the report of the sole adjudicator. When we were elected, we made a commitment to conduct ourselves in a manner that instills trust and confidence on the part of the general public in their elected officials and that we'd be found by the code of conduct for MLAs. The code of conduct guides us as we perform our duties as MLAs but it also sets out processes to be followed should an MLA be alleged to have breached the code of conduct.

As Members of this legislature, we hold a position of trust and authority. Members are expected to hold themselves to a high standard of conduct. As outlined in the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, each Member shall comply with the provisions of the act and the code of conduct. It also states clearly in section 75 of the Legislative and Executive Council Act that we must perform our duties of office we hold and arrange for our private affairs in such a way to maintain public confidence and trust in our integrity, objectivity, an impartiality. The Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act sets out a process for investigation and adjudication for allegations of the breaches of code of conduct.

In this case, Members followed this process and requested that the Integrity Commissioner determine if the matters should be referred to a sole adjudicator. The Integrity Commissioner did undertake an investigation and determined that a sole adjudicator should be appointed. We've now received the final report of the sole adjudicator.

Since the beginning of this unfortunate ordeal, I've been asked many times what my perspective is on the actions of the MLA. I have maintained that this has never been about a court of public opinion. It has been about ensuring we use the appropriate mechanisms in place to allow for a fair process. The MLA deserved that. The final report of the sole adjudicator is the result of the process that we have all agreed to be governed by. The sole adjudicator made an important distinction in his report that I believe is worth repeating today. If the only issue he was making a determination on was the breaching of the self-isolation, he would have recommended a 30-day suspension. The sole adjudicator found more serious the MLA misleading the public health officials and the public. It is clear to me that the MLA did mislead the public and damaged the very public confidence and trust that we are sworn to uphold. As the sole adjudicator said in the report, the actions by the MLA in falsely advising the public health officials as to his whereabouts during his self-isolation period are reprehensible.

The MLA, as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and chair of the Standing Committee for Accountability and Oversight, the MLA had a leadership role in the fight in this deadly disease. As was outlined by a public health official who had handled approximately 600 contact tracing investigations, the misleading and false statements by the MLA during their investigations negatively affected their ability to do their job and protect the health and safety of residents. The MLA was well aware of his responsibility to isolate when returning to the territory. As chair of the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight, he had access to more information than the public and made repeated statements about following the public health orders.

By not following the public health orders on self-isolation, he potentially exposed hundreds of people to COVID-19 and put the health and well-being of residents, communities, and especially those unable to get vaccinated, at risk. This, the sole adjudicator states, breached section 8 of the code of conduct and did not protect the public interest by not self-isolating and breaching the public health order, the MLA also breached section 2 of the code of conduct that states that Members must act lawfully and in a manner that will withstand the closest public scrutiny, upholding the integrity and honor of the Legislative Assembly and its Members. Members shall ensure their conduct does not bring the integrity of their office or of the Legislative Assembly into disrepute.

The sole adjudicator wrote in his report that the actions in misleading the public regarding his compliance with the self-isolation order are highly unethical and dishonest as they violate the public trust provided to him. I agree, Mr. Speaker.

The sole adjudicator goes on to say that the MLA's actions in breaching self-isolation requirements and misleading the public had irreparably damaged public confidence and trust. I also agree. The orders made by the Chief Public Health Officer are law, not suggestions.

Mr. Speaker, we all make mistakes in our lives. Taking responsibility and owning the mistakes is the mark of leadership and integrity. As the sole adjudicator stated in the report, the MLA showed no respect for the participants in the inquiry and for the rule of law which is such an integral component of a democratic society. Had the MLA been truthful at the start, we would not be in this position.

Mr. Speaker, I don't believe the MLA respects the rules that hold us accountable. These events have negatively impacted the integrity of the Legislative Assembly and the public's trust and confidence in this House. As I stated yesterday, threatening Members and staff is not appropriate behaviour and inconsistent with the code of conduct we all agreed to uphold. The threats that were raised through the points of privilege, and the actions taken by MLA Norn outlined in the sole adjudicator's report show a pattern of behaviour that must be addressed by this House.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the motion brought forward by the Member that is reflective of the recommendation of the sole adjudicator to declare the seat for the riding of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh vacant. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Range Lake. Motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Deh Cho.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it has come to a head now. This House is dealing with serious allegations of threats to Members and staff. There's now a motion on the floor to expel a Member from the Legislative Assembly and to vacate his seat. I don't take threats lightly either. And no one should ever have to hear them at any time and anywhere.

The one document that protects our safety from harm is our own code of conduct. I hope there are many people listening to these proceedings - First Nations, Metis associations, hamlet councils - there's many councils out there - on how a code of conduct can protect them from harm, intimidation and threats, and the course of actions to address these issues. Because there were many women on many of the councils out in the communities and something like this we can protect them for fear of retribution from intimidation and whatnot.

I'm not making any issues of all the other wrongs of Members and staff of this Assembly. I'm not making this an Indigenous issue. We are sworn to uphold our professionalism to the highest standards afforded to Members of the Legislative Assembly. I feel I've been backed into a corner by my colleague. I see no other recourse. If we could have had more debate, you know, as the Member is a young Member with a great political future ahead of him and supported by his riding, I would have recommended, you know, a suspension and perhaps sensitivity training. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. To the motion, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Steve Norn

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mr. Speaker, if I may I'd like to speak last. I'll let my colleagues go ahead of me. Mahsi cho.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. Motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife North.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Firstly, a procedural matter, the motion does not ask for a recorded vote. I believe that would only be appropriate, that this be a recorded vote, and I would ask for that.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to repeat what my colleagues have said and in fact I don't want to go over the facts or get into the specifics. I really want to speak about the precedent we're setting and whether this is something we are all willing to do. I think it's important to note that the last Assembly created this code of conduct; they created this process; and we all agreed to it.

I note there has been some comments that, you know, previously Assemblies have had Members who have committed criminal acts and done, you know, things that certainly were disreputable to this House. But one of the reasons that this process was created is because previous Assemblies felt they did not have the power to hold themselves to account. That is what this process we have created is. That is what that code of conduct is.

And Mr. Speaker, in many ways, you know, one-off criminal offences that are not going to the exact process of this House, or threatening staff who work here, is a very much different conversation than the conversation we are having.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize how rare this is. The Member from Frame Lake had to reference Louis Riel to talk about how rarely this has happened. However, I think it's importance to note that in southern jurisdictions there have been numerous resignations when things like this have occurred. In party systems, the party whip would probably make sure this never happens. Party Caucuses would kick Members out and make them irrelevant and they wouldn't have the party nomination for the next election. Those aren't tools that we have in consensus government which is part of the reason why we created such a code of conduct, Mr. Speaker.

There have been comments about, you know, whether we should be afraid of the precedent we are setting and, Mr. Speaker, I have thought about that long and hard. I am happy to live with that fear. I am happy that if I am ever in a situation where I have done what the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has done that a code of conduct exists, that an independent process exists. And, Mr. Speaker, I hope that never occurs in my life but I pledge to uphold that code of conduct. I would cooperate with any investigation. I would accept any recommendation, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, additionally, there was some discussion about recall legislation and in fact, I feel that declaring the seat vacant is only fair to the Member's constituents who now, if so, should the Member wish to rerun and should his constituents wish him to return to this House, that is possible, but we are handing this back to his constituents to make that decision. I think they deserve that right after this behaviour, to make that decision, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I believe in the process we have upheld. It is one of the strongest, most stringent code of conducts, and we are holding ourselves to one of highest standards of any Legislative Assembly in Canada. And we should be proud of that, Mr. Speaker. And god forbid, Mr. Speaker, if I ever find myself in this situation, I would not force my colleagues to have this vote. I would not force the House to go through this process. I would do the honourable thing and resign.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to be honest. I didn't want to make a statement today. I want to debate the capital budget and find alternate solutions for Kam Lake's expectant mothers who now need to deliver in Edmonton, establish an action plan for getting our territory out of quarantine and jump start our economy. But I believe the people I serve would expect me to stand and speak and lend my voice to those of my colleagues.

Some have shared sentiment that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh should not be reprimanded for simply getting a public health violation ticket and that it is just a one-time thing. These comments are dismissive of fact. It isn't just one thing. It has been almost a year of costly mediations, investigations, multiple public health violations, and a pattern of threats that have monopolized many of our board of management meetings. Incredible amounts of public dollars have had to be spent to properly follow process in response to the Member's complaints and actions. It is worth noting that the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh did not fully participate in each of the processes as was expected of him.

Referring the matter to the Integrity Commissioner is the primary tool that MLAs have to hold one another accountable in matters of conduct. The Integrity Commissioner is a statutory officer of this House. They are paid fixed annual salary regardless of how much work they do for Members and Members are invited to seek advice from the Integrity Commissioner any time. And we do.

Members did not decide lightly to file a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner through Caucus chair, the Member for Yellowknife North. We do so in response to the Member of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's actions and reactions surrounding the events of April and May 2021. As required by the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, the Integrity Commissioner determined whether a Caucus complaint should be dismissed or referred to inquiry by a sole adjudicator.

The Integrity Commissioner referred the complaint to the sole adjudicator and board of management was then tasked with selecting a sole adjudicator in accordance with the act. Board of management selected the sole adjudicator from a list of eligible persons under the act. This list was generated long before either myself or the Member were elected. Board of management selected the honourable Ronald L. Barclay, Q.C. The honourable Mr. Barclay has both an impressive resume and reputation. That inquiry ended with a recommendation from the honourable Ronald L. Barclay that we declare the seat for the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh vacant.

The inquiry state that "Mr. Norn did not practice what he breached. Mr. Norn displayed a cavalier attitude by breaching the self-isolation plan not once, but five times within a 14 day isolation period." The Member then omitted important information during his contact tracing was untruthful and wasted valuable time and resources of public health staff. Had the Member been honest about his self-isolation breaches, apologized and taken immediate accountability, I am not convinced we would be standing here today. But the first time the Member apologized to Northerners was in October during the sole adjudicator hearing. This moment was enough to actually be noted by the sole adjudicator as follows: "In making this purported apology, Mr. Norn minimized his actions and failed to take responsibility for the breach."

Mr. Barclay goes on to say, "I must observe that the purported apology comes not early in the proceedings but at the very latest opportunity. Mr. Norn has been dealing with these allegations since May of 2021 when they were first brought before the Integrity Commissioner and has never once offered an apology of any sort until he did so on the second last day of the hearing. The timing of this apology is suspicious and leads me to believe that it is made to garner sympathy with me as the sole adjudicator and was not made in good faith."

Less than two weeks after the Member was found to have breached the self-isolation plan, we found ourselves in a school outbreak. The school sits on the edge of Kam Lake on the border shared with Yellowknife South. Both the Member for Yellowknife South and I found ourselves in isolation, having our children tested, and working hard from home to inform and advocate for hundreds of confused constituents. I was very vocal about my frustration with public information during the May outbreak. Many Northerners have expressed confusion and frustration over public health and isolation rules. That being said, the MLA for Yellowknife South, myself, and the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh all have one thing in common that our constituents do not when we find ourselves confused by public health orders. Mr. Speaker, we have the Health Minister on speed dial.

During the sole adjudicator hearing, it was implied that staff are in some way responsible for the Member's breaches of the code of conduct because he was not properly oriented as a new MLA. We are talking about telling the truth, not threatening people, making genuine apologies when you're in the wrong, and learning from past experience. This is not a learning curve that starts when you take office. That being said, Mr. Speaker, I consider myself a compassionate and forgiving person. We are all human. We all make mistakes. And mistakes aren't inherently wrong. If we never made a mistake, it would mean we never tried something new, had courage, or were simply human. Mistakes will happen. We all make them. But what matters is how we react to them. We are expected to admit, correct, or apologize and learn.

I am sad for the year that the Member has had and where he finds himself today. But I am perplexed by the Member's lack of self-awareness in his role that he played to get us here today. In addition to the sole adjudicator's report, MLAs shared yesterday about patterns of threats. In response, the Member said he was passionate and he had feist. Passion is a requirement of this job. You need fire in your belly and a sprinkle feist in this role, Mr. Speaker. But passion means a strong feeling or emotion and it is often associated with love and desire. Passion is not physical, emotional, of psychological harm. And being passionate does not give people a green light to harass, intimate, or threaten.

The Member insists that his remarks were taken out of context and that he did not realize the impact of his words. There were months between events where the Member threatened Members or staff. Between events, he was called out for his behaviour and he repeated this behaviour. This is not "gotcha culture," Mr. Speaker. This is being held accountable for your actions.

We live in a territory with the highest rates of violence against women second only to Nunavut. We work in a majority female government where we often share personal anecdotes to connect the work we do and to one another. Our colleagues have shared lived experience as survivors. Words have weight. We are literally here to use our words with weight to improve the lives of the people we serve.

Mr. Speaker, I am tired of the mockery being made of this institution. We don't have time for it. It is unaffordable to both the public's trust and the bottom line of this government. I am frustrated by the Member's refusal to take a step back and look at this last year, his actions and reactions, and how each has culminated to this moment.

Mr. Speaker, both the Member and his legal counsel have indicated that he has not done enough to lose his seat. But if breaking the law multiple times and threatening staff and Members is not the threshold, I would like to know what is.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying that we as elected officials are here for one and one reason only and that is to represent our constituents and the people of the NWT. Each of those that we represent expect each of us to uphold the code of conduct we set out for ourselves. The code is clear to each of us.

Mr. Speaker, in the News North dated November 19th, 2021, the headline states, Norn says COVID-19 ticket not enough to lose your job over. He is correct in that assumption. It should have been a matter of Mr. Norn saying I broke self-isolation, I will pay the fine, and I apologize.

Mr. Speaker, being an MLA is not to be taken lightly as our constituents have placed their trust in each of us. For me, being an MLA is as simple as being respectful to your constituents, respectful to the residents of the NWT, respectful to the staff, and respectful to your colleagues. It means keeping your eye on the ball which is constituent issues and issues of those residents in the NWT.

What transpired here is not one incident, but several, some of which have negatively impacted staff and some MLAs, residents of YK and surrounding communities and businesses. The pattern of behaviour was set out not only in the point of privilege tabled yesterday but in statements made by previous MLAs today, which I concur with and will not dwell on.

Mr. Speaker, I want to keep this real. It is important to know that real people have been impacted by what transpired over the last several months. I received an email from a family that had caught the virus which resulted in the husband and wife having to leave work and are still feeling the effects of the virus several months later and not being able to attend work.

I talked to a business owner who relayed to me that just when he thought revenue would start to increase that would allow him to actually take a paycheque, the city was put into lockdown and business suffered again.

A friend of mine, who lost his sister to violence, she followed the rules. She followed the rules during that difficult time by respecting the self-isolation protocol that her visiting sister was required to follow. She asked that I relay this to the Assembly that it was a very difficult time but it was the right thing to do because of the pandemic.

So you see, Mr. Speaker, there are people out there that are really affected, and it's not just a matter of a ticket. So for me, I would say it is time for the Member to rise and resign otherwise it is with a heavy heart that I must support this motion. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Hay River North.

R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What we're talking about today is stripping constituents of their MLA, stripping a person of their livelihood, this motion places a heavy burden on the Members of this House. And we have to weigh that against the heavy responsibility that we have to uphold the integrity of this House and to maintain the public confidence and trust in our system.

The Members who have spoken so far have laid things out very well, and I agree with all of the comments I've heard so I won't repeat them. But I want to, you know, put a fine point on why I'm supporting this motion. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, like many Members I watched countless hours of testimony of the public hearing, and the one thing that stuck with me, the one thing I go back to, the one thing I keep thinking about, is the intentional misleading, the intentional lying to the public, knowing that the Member did not follow the rules and told the public he followed the rules. But more than that, Mr. Speaker, it is the callous way in which the Member misled public health officials who were attempting to do contact tracing. They wanted to know who did you come in contact with. We need to contact them to make sure they're not sick, to make sure they know that maybe they had to self-isolate.

They do that to stop the spread of COVID-19. That's how we have gotten this far. That's why we don't have the mass casualties that we otherwise would. That is key to maintaining public health. That's key to keeping people alive, keeping people healthy, keeping businesses open, keeping kids in school. And I couldn't imagine myself holding that information back from public health officials. That's what I think about the most, and that's why I have to support this motion because that is not the kind of representation that the people of the Northwest Territories deserve.

I don't see this behaviour ending, Mr. Speaker. I think that if we don't see this motion through, this will continue. As Members have said, there is a lack of accountability, the Member hasn't taken responsibility, and there's no end in sight. So it doesn't give me any joy but I have to support this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River North. Motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife South.