The Yellowknives Dene First Nation has called for the resignation of Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn.
First Nation chief executive officer Jason Snaggs confirmed to Cabin Radio the letter had been sent to Premier Caroline Cochrane and other MLAs, and that it called for Norn to step down.
Norn came forward last month to identify himself and a family member as the first two cases in a five-case Covid-19 cluster in Yellowknife. It subsequently emerged that he had visited the NWT legislature a day before he said his 14-day isolation period expired, while exposure advisories were issued for several Yellowknife locations in connection with the same cases.
It’s not clear whether the cluster of cases involving Norn is connected to the current, larger cluster centred on the city’s NJ Macpherson School.
The NWT’s MLAs are holding a meeting on Tuesday to discuss Norn’s actions. The Yellowknives Dene First Nation is understood to have delivered its letter to MLAs in advance of that meeting.
Norn represents the Yellowknives Dene communities of Dettah and Ndilǫ in the territorial legislature, alongside the communities of Fort Resolution and Łútsël K’é. He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning.
Chief Ernest Betsina of Ndilǫ, reached by phone, confirmed the letter had been sent to MLAs but said he would reserve comment until he had received a response.
Norn has made little public comment in the past week, other than a brief interview with the CBC in which he was not reported to have directly commented on his actions during the isolation period.
It isn’t clear if NWT public health officials have pursued any form of charge or ticket against Norn. The territorial government says it will not comment on individual cases. In cases where fines are issued, there is no public registry. Only if a case were to be challenged in court would it appear on the territorial court docket.
Code of conduct
MLAs in the Northwest Territories operate to a mutually agreed code of conduct.
“Members must act lawfully and in a manner that will withstand the closest public scrutiny,” that code reads in part.
If an MLA is felt by their colleagues to have contravened the code, a complaint can be lodged with an independent integrity commissioner who will review the case. (Members of the public are also able to make complaints to the commissioner.)
The commissioner – currently lawyer David Phillip Jones, QC – can order an inquiry to be held before a sole adjudicator. That adjudicator has the power to recommend that MLAs reprimand, fine, or suspend a colleague, and can also recommend that an MLA’s seat be declared vacant. A majority of MLAs would have to support the adjudicator’s recommendation for action to be taken.
The NWT’s premier, without directly referring to Norn, has in recent days publicly stated people must be held to account for breaches of the territory’s public health orders during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of those orders mandates that people isolate for a full 14 days on their return from travel outside the territory.
Norn represents a range of Akaitcho peoples including members of the Yellowknives Dene, Łútsël K’é Dene, and Deninu Kue.
Chief Darryl Marlowe of the Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation could not be reached for comment. Chief Louis Balsillie of the Deninu Kue First Nation, reached by Cabin Radio, said he had not been aware of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s letter and had no immediate comment.
Sarah Pruys contributed reporting.