Katrina Nokleby is pictured attending a conference in Yellowknife in 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
RCMP will not charge Katrina Nokleby following an investigation into whether her mid-evacuation return to Yellowknife broke the law.
The territorially issued evacuation order was enforceable by law. Breaking the order carried a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail or up to a $5,000 fine.
The Great Slave MLA said she returned to Yellowknife after being named by Ernest Betsina, then chief-elect of Dettah, on a list of essential workers at a roadblock outside the city.
However, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation later told Betsina – who had not assumed office at the time – to rescind that. RCMP subsequently said they were investigating the circumstances of Nokleby’s return.
A separate investigation by integrity commissioner David Phillip Jones suggested that the person operating the roadblock “had difficulty finding” Nokleby’s name on the list, but Jones said he was prepared to give the MLA “the benefit of the doubt on whether her return was lawful.”
In a short emailed statement on Wednesday, RCMP spokesperson Cpl Matt Halstead told Cabin Radio: “The Yellowknife Detachment advises that the investigation is completed and that charges will not be laid.”
Jones has recommended that MLAs fine and reprimand for Nokleby for bringing her office into disrepute by returning to Yellowknife in the manner that she did. Residents had been told to leave unless their presence was considered vital by authorities.
Nokleby has said she needs time to review the integrity commissioner’s report before commenting.
Some of her supporters have questioned the focus on one person’s actions while many hundreds of other people who remained in the city, despite the evacuation order, were not investigated by RCMP.
During the evacuation, Halstead had said people who stayed in Yellowknife would not be proactively targeted by police, other than being encouraged to leave.
“This is about public safety,” he said in late August, “assisting in enforcing the roadblocks that are in place. In terms of the people that are here, nothing is going to change in terms of how we’re interacting with them.”
Jones, in his report, said he recommended a fine and reprimand in part because Nokleby, an elected official, had breached the MLAs’ code of conduct – which asks politicians to act “lawfully and in a manner that will withstand the closest public scrutiny” – in a “particularly public way.”
“The Members of the Legislative Assembly have set a high bar for their behaviour, which must be above reproach and must not undermine public confidence in either the institution or them as members,” he wrote, while noting: “Whether the RCMP decide there are grounds for charging Ms Nokleby for breaching the evacuation order is a separate matter.”