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.

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Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2954

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.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2954

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2954

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.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2955

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2955

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.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2955

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2955

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.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2956

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.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2956

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.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2956

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2956

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

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.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2957

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife South. Colleagues before we continue I just want to remind the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh that the mover has the right to conclude debate at any time so if you want to do your statement.

The Member -- the mover has the right to close debate at any time so if you want to -- Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

Page 2958

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Well, here we are. This has been a long and harrowing road, a path, and I have a lot of sadness. I feel a little bit at peace but a lot of sadness today. I have some words prepared but, again, the time of blaming is over. Like, I have to respect all my colleagues and what their beliefs are. I have to respect their vote. And this has affected my family a great deal. And my three girls, I love them very much.

Throughout my life I've always been surrounded by powerful ladies, and my great-grandmother raised me. But when I leave here today, I got to still be a strong role model for my daughters and -- but life goes on. I'm resilient. I've always been resilient. I'm going to stay strong for my family and do the best thing I can to provide for them. And like I've always been taught, my ancestors before me, you know.

And like I said, it's been a long harrowing road. And I accept what's going to be said here, like, what's the vote going to be, but we are here. And one thing I will say, this is not any word of blame, this is not like I listened to some other precedents that have been set in other democracies. But I can't help but wonder if, you know, it would have went down in another part of the world, you know. As an aboriginal man, I've worked as a police officer in Saskatchewan, and I can't tell you how harrowing that job is to begin with. That's a scary job, to drive those farming communities and rural prairies, middle of the night. I've done that. I've dealt with the judge that let Colten Boushie go, the killer of Colten Boushie go. I worked with him before. He used to be a RCMP force lawyer.

And some of the things that are happening around the world right now, you know, a young Caucasian kid kills few people like in plain view, and he gets away with it. I'm not going to use my, the color of my skin anymore. I'm still going to go on. I'm still going to bat 60 percent of random searches at the airport, which I still do. I'm still going to be followed around the stores, make sure that I'm going to pay for my items. That's my life. That's what I live every day.

And with all this going on, I -- every single syllable that has left my mouth has been scrutinized, judged to the nth degree. And it probably will for some time. And I just, like I said life will go on. I apologize to the bottom of my heart for, if I caused any pain, hurt, fear. I would never hurt anybody. I would never hurt a fly. I would never hurt you. And apologize if I caused any fear and that's just -- I feel terrible, and that burns in my soul and this is something I will have to live with for the rest of my days.

But I will say that when I leave this Chamber, I will still serve where I can and when I can. I will still go out there and put my body, my mind and heart in harm's way because that's all I know. And I'll still hold my head up high. And I'll do the best I can for my family, and. And this is regrettable, and I will say that I will resign. I will prevent you from making this vote. I will save you that. I will do that and do you that honor. And that I could feel the will of the people in this room, and I will respect that. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Colleagues, we'll call a short recess.

---Recess

Colleagues, I wanted to check the record to ensure that I heard Mr. Norn's resignation clearly before we proceed. While I am confident that this was his clear intention, I regret to inform you that the legislation as it is currently worded, and at this late hour, still requires a decision of this House.

Are there others that still wish to speak to the motion. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Motion 42-19(2): Declaration of Vacant Seat for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, Carried
Motions

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that opportunity.

I was one of the people who sat on the rules and procedures committee in the last Legislative Assembly. And to put it into some context, not only had we an unprecedented number at that time of new MLAs, we were also in the thick of the #metoo movement, and with that in mind, we decided to work on changes to the code of conduct that would make it more stringent than it had been in the past, and with the support of our Members at the time in the Legislative Assembly, that code of conduct and its commentary was passed.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would apply to a situation such as the one that we are discussing today where the behaviour of the Member is wholly unacceptable and for which the Member is taking no responsibility. This is a very different situation than we anticipated in crafting that code of conduct.

Just to reiterate a few things that I've heard before but I think they're important, this problem began a year ago. It began in this room in a confidential meeting, and it has persisted through an entire year in different forms and always with the same outcome, that the Member or soon-to-be-former Member of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh was dissatisfied with the result, did not feel his concerns had been heard, and felt that he was being treated in a racist manner.

I want to say that I appreciate Rylund Johnson going forward with the complaint on behalf of Caucus which started the -- first with the complaint to the Integrity Commissioner and then to the sole adjudicator.

I want to reject the commentary that the sole adjudicator was somehow not suitable to conduct the public hearing that we saw in October and November. He was a ten-year Conflict of Interest Commissioner in Saskatchewan and has a 50-year practice of law in many different capacities. There's no question in my mind that he had the expertise we needed to conduct the hearing and to come out with a result.

As he said in his own report, it wasn't an overly complicated two questions that he was asked to rule on. The first was whether the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh had broken his isolation, and what we know through the testimony is that, in fact, that happened five times; it wasn't just a one-off. It happened five times, and it was not inadvertent or minor. He did this knowingly and subjected people to the risk of COVID-19 infection knowingly, which is reprehensible.

Secondly, the sole adjudicator was asked to rule on the question of whether the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh had misled the public. And the short answer is yes. In many ways, shapes, and forms, he did not, in fact, tell the truth. He did not own his behaviour. And consistently throughout, he behaved as if there was a different law for himself than there was for everyone else.

I want to point you to a moment in the hearing where the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh said to the deputy clerk that he had a political exemption that would allow him to be in the Legislative Assembly while he was in isolation.

What that demonstrated to me is that he thought he was above the law, the law that requires us to self-isolate during the pandemic. And in fact, nobody is above the law. There is no political exemption. The law is one in the same for everyone wherever they live in the NWT. Whatever their race, origin, hair color, it's the same rule for everyone.

So what we know is that he broke isolation and he lied about it, that he subjected hundreds of people to risk, even though it was a low-level risk, it was still a risk, with his cavalier attitude and we could have had a great number more cases in the third wave than we had. The third wave was particularly acute here in Yellowknife with the NJ Macpherson outbreak. But we could have had even a worse time than we did there.

Mr. Norn's rationale for misleading the public was exhaustion and stress. And the sole adjudicator, at paragraph 256, rejected that saying that he did not accept Mr. Norn's explanation and did not believe him in his reasons for not -- for misleading the public.

As other colleagues have said, the public expects a great deal from us in this Legislative Assembly. We've been elected, and as my colleague from Yellowknife South said, given the privilege and the honor of representing our constituents here. And they want us not only to acknowledge that we're above the law but to act in that way, that we are -- pardon me -- that we are not above the law, and they want us to act in a way that shows that we are not above the law. And because of the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's conduct, he actually brought us all into disrepute, and he brought this House into disrepute because he did not behave in a way that inspires confidence and trust from the public.

I want to thank all of my constituents who contacted me on this matter. It was quite a robust response. And I want to say that with one exception, the advice I received was that having gone through the process of the sole adjudicator, spent the money on the sole adjudicator, and dragged ourselves through the whole ordeal, that we needed to follow the advice of the sole adjudicator, and I totally agree with that. I think that having asked for this advice and received it, there is no way forward except to follow it and to acknowledge that vacating the seat given the level of betrayal he displayed in losing the trust and the confidence of us as his colleagues and the public that the right thing to do is to declare the seat vacant, and I will certainly be voting in favour of that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.