N.W.T. minister apologizes for remarks that angered MLA, led to 'disgusting' jibe

·2 min read

Northwest Territories health minister Julie Green on Wednesday apologized for remarks she made to Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby in the Legislative Assembly the previous day.

In a heated exchange on Tuesday while discussing mental health concerns in the N.W.T., Green said Nokleby had been “soliciting horror stories on Facebook and apparently has been very gratified with that.”

The remarks referred to a February 5 Facebook post by Nokleby in which she asked constituents to reach out if they felt their mental health concerns were not being addressed, so she could “forward them to the health minister for her education.”

Green's "horror stories" characterization resulted in Nokleby three times calling Green's conduct "disgusting." Both Green and Nokleby each raised points of orders with Speaker of the House Frederick Blake Jr complaining about the other's statements.

On Wednesday, Green told colleagues she had reflected on Tuesday's exchange and concluded her comments “went beyond the ordinary and healthy level of tension between regular members and cabinet.”

The minister added: “I’m a longtime advocate for mental health issues in the Northwest Territories and supporting residents who need help is important to me.”

Green then withdrew her remarks, and the point of order she filed against Nokleby, and apologized.

Green's withdrawal of her remarks rendered Nokleby's own point of order redundant. Planned debates regarding both points of order therefore did not take place.

Blake reminded MLAs of their commitment to maintain a respectful environment.

“Heated debate and strong words are to be expected in this place. When we step over the line, it is important we take responsibility for our words and actions and make amends,” he said.

He said the Legislative Assembly is held to a higher standard and his job is to hold everyone to that standard in a fair and impartial way.

“One of the first things we were told when we first came here is that we have the right to say whatever we want in this chamber,” he said.

“That is true, but we have, too, our own rules. We place our own limits on what we can and can’t say.

“Those rules are made in the North and they are different from what we see in party-based systems to the south.”

Blake acknowledged COVID-19 has had an impact on MLAs and their constituents, and the past year had taken a toll on everyone’s lives.

“I ask each of you to make a commitment to yourselves and to each other to use respectful language and actions in this House. It is OK to disagree, but let’s try harder to do it without being disagreeable,” he said.

“Most importantly, let’s show strength and courage in this place by modelling the behaviour we want to see in our communities. Our words and actions matter, and we need to demonstrate leadership through these challenging times.”

Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio