MLA's lawyer argues for adjournment of inquiry into alleged breach of conduct

·3 min read
The adjudicator overseeing a public hearing into Steve Norn's alleged breach of conduct will decide Tuesday morning whether or not to adjourn the hearing. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The adjudicator overseeing a public hearing into Steve Norn's alleged breach of conduct will decide Tuesday morning whether or not to adjourn the hearing. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn wasn't in attendance at a public hearing Monday morning to address his alleged breach of conduct.

Steven Cooper, Norn's lawyer, told the sole adjudicator Ronald L. Barclay that Norn is managing "an emerging medical condition." The hearing was adjourned to 2 p.m. while counsel sought to attain medical documentation addressing Norn's circumstances.

When the hearing reconvened, no further documentation was provided.

Barclay ruled to continue as planned.

"It appears that Mr. Norn's non-appearance and allegations of an emergent medical condition is not supported to date by any evidence that you have submitted and leads me to the inescapable conclusion that this is a further delaying tactic that I will not countenance," he said.

However, he also agreed to listen to further arguments about the adjournment.

'Politically motivated'

Cooper rejected the notion that Norn's absence was a delay tactic.

He suggested instead that the hearing is being rushed to take place this week so that it finishes before the Legislative Assembly reconvenes on Oct. 14.

He said his office was not given sufficient time to prepare given the quantity of evidence and that the haste to proceed is "politically motivated."

Cooper pointed to affidavits presented to him by Maurice Laprairie, counsel to the adjudicator, as recently as Monday morning, in addition to others coming through Friday and in the days leading up to the inquiry.

"This is too important to my client's constituents, it's too important to people who believe in democracy and consensus government in the Northwest Territories for this to be a rushed judgment," Cooper said.

"We're not trying to delay, we're just looking to digest what's now over 1,000 pages."

In response, Laprairie said that "disclosure has been fulsome and timely." He said documentation had been delivered to Cooper as it had been obtained.

He said there was no basis for Cooper's claim and pointed to 19 "lengthy" letters Cooper wrote containing "numerous complaints." Without the letters, Laprairie said Cooper may have been better prepared.

Adjudicator to rule on adjournment Tuesday

The hearing stems from a complaint made by Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson with the territory's integrity commissioner on behalf of the caucus of MLAs based on alleged violations of the MLA Code of Conduct.

The complaint is that MLA Steve Norn allegedly breached the Legislative Assembly's code of conduct when he broke his mandatory self-isolation period after travel and made inaccurate statements in the press about it.

In a 137-page report released in June, integrity commissioner David Phillip Jones wrote that "leaving self-isolation prior to the required 14 days is not a trivial or minor matter."

Jones said the complaint against Norn raises "serious questions" about the MLA's actions.

At the end of the hearing, Barclay, a retired judge from Saskatchewan, has the power to dismiss the complaint, or find the member guilty.

If Barclay finds Norn guilty, he can recommend the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories to:

  • reprimand him,

  • order a fine not exceeding $25,000,

  • order restitution or pay for any losses,

  • suspend the member for up to 30 days,

  • make an order declaring the seat vacant.

The adjudicator only has power to make recommendations to the assembly, which it can choose to either accept or reject.

Barclay will make his decision on adjournment at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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