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Health
Politics

Green, Edjericon spar over ‘gaslit’ residents, ‘disastrous’ treatment


The latest feud among Northwest Territories politicians reached the legislature on Monday as Richard Edjericon and Julie Green continued a battle over healthcare in smaller communities.

Edjericon, the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA, took an NNSL reporter to Fort Resolution in April to hear residents’ concerns. He told the newspaper the community’s healthcare staff “don’t take their job seriously.”

In mid-May, the same newspaper reported Green, the health minister, had sent Edjericon an email sharply criticizing him for those and other remarks.

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“I anticipate they are demoralizing and will make recruitment and retention of healthcare staff even more difficult in Fort Resolution,” NNSL quoted Green as writing. The newspaper stated Edjericon had replied: “I will not be made silent because staff feels bad that a voice is being given to people who feel the service levels are not up to the national standard.”

Meanwhile, Green addressed Fort Resolution residents’ reported concerns in a CBC interview. In one part of that interview, the health minister urged residents to proactively advocate for themselves.

“What I would like to see is that people feel comfortable talking to the health centre continuously and saying, ‘I know you gave me Tylenol, that’s not doing it. Could you do this for me or that for me?’ And to have that interactive process at the beginning, instead of waiting to complain after the process is at the crisis point,” Green told the broadcaster.

“I realize that some people aren’t comfortable advocating with medical professionals. They feel a little shy about their lack of expertise, but that is the right thing to do. You need to tell them how you feel, so that they know what they can do for you.”

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On Monday, Edjericon – addressing the legislature via video link – apologized for the contents of his leaked email to Green, then pressed home similar points.

He said a “dismissive and patronizing” tone had been taken by the minister not only in emails but “many more times in this house and over the course of our duties serving in this institution.”

Edjericon said Green had acted inappropriately in attempting, in his view, to “silence valid criticism” and “talk down” to a small community’s representative “when she has zero experience of day-to-day living in rural and remote Indigenous communities.”

He said Green had tried “to gaslight patients who receive unacceptable care into believing that it was their own fault for failing to advocate for their own medical conditions,” concluding that Green was “accountable for the disastrous treatment of Indigenous small-community members.”

Edjericon ‘over the line’

As soon as Edjericon finished his statement, Green rose to object.

In a point of order, the minister said Edjericon had broken legislature rules that prevent MLAs from making allegations against one another or imputing “false or hidden motives.”

“By suggesting that I am downplaying, gaslighting, requiring an apology for disastrous treatment, I believe this member is over the line,” Green told Speaker of the House Frederick Blake Jr.

In a back-and-forth made all the more awkward by Edjericon’s inability to hear clearly via video, the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA said he was “only conveying what’s been said by my constituents.”

Blake said he would rule on Green’s point of order later, but cautioned Edjericon to “use respectful language and refrain from making accusations against the minister.”

Boss visits Fort Resolution

Edjericon again addressed Green less than an hour later, using the legislature’s question period to paint a picture of leaders “more interested in doing damage control in the media” than fixing the territory’s healthcare system.

Green said she had recently visited six NWT communities of varying sizes and was “certainly interested in hearing” the ideas of residents who see “room for improvement.”

“What we want is the best possible health outcomes, whether they live in a small community or Yellowknife. That is something we are very focused on as a department,” she said.

Green said the chief executive of the NWT health authority’s Yellowknife region – which includes Fort Resolution – had twice visited Fort Resolution in May “and has opened channels of communication with the leadership there to work on the specific issues people have raised.”

A shortage of nurses in Fort Resolution means the community often operates with two workers instead of three, Green said, urging residents to use the territory’s complaints process if they are “afraid or unsure about advocating for themselves in the moment.”

The disagreement between Green and Edjericon has echoes of the ongoing, years-long falling-out between Green and Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby, whose exchanges in the legislature are seldom cordial.

Edjericon’s predecessor, Steve Norn, was removed from the legislature in part because other MLAs accused him of “toxic behaviour” toward colleagues. Jackson Lafferty, the former Monfwi MLA, was ordered out of the legislature when he refused to apologize for calling Premier Caroline Cochrane of misleading MLAs and breaking the law.

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