N.W.T. MLA demands apology for premier's 'colonialist' comparison of MLAs to children

·2 min read

An N.W.T. MLA is demanding an apology from the territory's premier after she drew comparisons between regular MLAs and children, calling her remarks "disgraceful and contemptuous."

In a speech to reporters Tuesday, Premier Caroline Cochrane presented an extended analogy to explain why she was not always "transparent" in her decision making.

Cochrane compared cabinet to parents deciding where their children should go to school.

"When the parents are just sitting down talking about that, is that the time you want your child in?" she asked.

In a Facebook post Wednesday evening, Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty called those comments "deeply troubling".

"I am offended that our Premier would refer to the people of the Northwest Territories as 'children' who must be misled in order to protect them from so-called 'mass confusion,'" he wrote.

Pointing to the N.W.T.'s recent history of colonial rule, Lafferty suggested the comments demonstrated "a return to colonialist attitudes that could jeopardize the future of the very North itself."

"I believe that all Northerners are capable of understanding the challenges of our government and do not need to be spoon-fed half-truths from elected leaders," he wrote.

"I am calling on Premier Cochrane to withdraw her remarks and publicly apologize for her disrespectful words that make a mockery of our democracy and cast our citizens in the role of children," the post concludes.

Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada
Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada

Premier: 'I apologize if anyone was offended'

In a written statement in response to a query from CBC News, Cochrane said she "disagree[s] with his interpretation" of her remarks.

"At the time my own family were having these discussions about sending our grandchild to Junior Kindergarten and I thought it was something that most people could relate to," she said.

Cochrane said her intent was to emphasize the importance of "a safe and confidential space" to discuss ideas before they can be "communicated to the public clearly."

"It is clear however, that my intent was misinterpreted by some and I apologize if anyone was offended," she said.

Lafferty has been a vocal critic of the premier since failing in his own bid for the seat last year.

In March, he was ejected from the assembly for refusing to apologize to the premier after accusing her of breaking the law in firing Aurora College president Tom Weegar.

Lafferty also criticized the premier during an emergency session to remove her infrastructure minister, Katrina Nokleby, saying Cochrane had left his constituents "confused and frustrated" by her "unilateral decision."