Council finds no breach of conduct when Iqaluit mayor punched man outside grocery store

·3 min read
Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell says he regrets the situation that caused him to punch a man in the jaw outside an Iqaluit grocery story last month. City Council is actively working to improve public safety in the capital. (David Gunn/CBC - image credit)
Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell says he regrets the situation that caused him to punch a man in the jaw outside an Iqaluit grocery story last month. City Council is actively working to improve public safety in the capital. (David Gunn/CBC - image credit)

Iqaluit City Council says the city's mayor did not breach a code of conduct when he punched a man outside a grocery store — but no explanation is being offered about how that decision was reached.

In a Facebook post April 22, Mayor Kenny Bell said a man approached him, said "I want to fight you" and punched him in the chest. "I popped him in the jaw with a left," Bell wrote, and the man ran away.

A week later, city council issued a statement saying Bell was physically assaulted, reacted in defence, and that his actions did not violate council standards.

"Upon review, the Councillor Code of Conduct was not breached in this incident," said Deputy Mayor Solomon Awa. The statement did not say who carried out the review, or explain how the finding was made.

High standard of conduct expected

Iqaluit's Councillor Code of Conduct By-Law says it sets out a "common understanding" about how council members are expected to behave "in their dealings with the community, City staff and one another."

The code says council members are part of a leadership team in which the community has placed trust, and "the community is therefore entitled to expect high standards of conduct from its elected representatives."

It says council members are expected to "treat all members of the community honestly and fairly and in a way that does not cause offence or embarrassment to individuals or groups." It also says that councillors are expected to "obey the spirit and letter of the law."

RCMP in Iqaluit confirmed they did not receive a call about an assault or physical altercation outside a grocery store involving the mayor on April 22.

City says issue is 'concluded'

In the April 29 statement, Bell said: "I regret the situation that occurred. I reacted to the threat of danger, when an unknown man verbally and physically accosted me in an enclosed space at a local grocery store." His original Facebook post on April 22 said the incident happened outside the store.

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Bell, reached by phone on April 25, declined to comment on the incident. CBC News could not reach Bell when it called about the code of conduct finding Monday.

Awa referred to the incident as a "scuffle" and said, in the same statement, that everyone has the right to feel safe in Iqaluit. City council "does not condone violence of any form," he said.

CBC News requested an interview with Awa to learn more about how the review was carried out. Aleksey Cameron, a communications and customer service manager for the city, responded that neither Awa or the city had anything to add.

The code also says that council members make decisions about disciplinary actions for violations of the code. It does not say, however, who is responsible for making decisions about whether the code has been breached.

Cameron did not answer questions, sent in an email, about who carried out the review, if a third party was called in to investigate, or how the decision was reached.

"City council considers this issue concluded," said Cameron.

Last fall, a group calling itself Ladies of the Lower Base launched a campaign to improve neighbourhood safety.

The group included former mayor Madeleine Redfern, who said she's witnessed sexual assaults and violence behind her house.

In the statement, Cameron said city staff have recently taken steps to address public safety, including revamping the Iqaluit Public Safety Committee, initiating a community public safety plan, working with the RCMP and taxi industry on safety concerns, investing in youth programs and working with partners to curb public drinking.

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