Media, security staff, take the stand in public inquiry for N.W.T. MLA who broke isolation

·4 min read
The public hearing into Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn's alleged breach of conduct continued Tuesday. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The public hearing into Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn's alleged breach of conduct continued Tuesday. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A public inquiry into MLA Steve Norn's alleged breach of code of conduct continued Tuesday.

The hearing is to assess whether or not Norn breached the Legislative Assembly's code of conduct when he broke his mandatory self-isolation period after travel and made inaccurate statements in the news about it.

On Monday, Norn's lawyer Steven Cooper requested an adjournment on the case. He said he needed more time to review the piles of evidence, some of which had only been provided to him days or hours before the hearing began.

Cooper called the rush for the inquiry to be heard this week "politically motivated" ahead of the Legislative Assembly reconvening on Oct. 14.

Sole adjudicator Ronald L. Barclay denied the application for adjournment Tuesday morning. He said that "the disclosure provided to Mr. Cooper was both fulsome and timely."

"Mr. Cooper's suggestion the date for this hearing was selected and maintained to facilitate the legislature and was politically motivated is frankly insulting, is without foundation and is entirely false," Barclay said.

A decision that Norn said was "like a legal farce."

"Are you serious Mr. Barclay? Wow. Wow," Norn said while Barclay presented his ruling on the application to adjourn.

Testimonies

Ollie Williams, head of programming and news with Cabin Radio, and Liny Lamberink, a reporter with CBC Yellowknife, were cross-examined Tuesday on their reporting.

Williams was questioned on a Cabin Radio report from April 23 where Norn said he isolated as instructed from April 4 to 18.

Cooper asked that Williams confirm how he introduced himself to Norn on the call preceding the story and how he could be sure of accuracy when his recording equipment had not been working that day. Williams provided typed notes of his conversation with Norn, which he was compelled by subpoena to provide, and said that the Cabin Radio story was written minutes after his brief conversation with Norn while the comments were fresh in his mind.

Asked what he meant by "brief," Williams said the call lasted about five minutes.

Williams then interjected to note that Norn had written "liar" in the virtual chat over Zoom – a function only visible to those participating in the hearing.

Williams then read the messages into the public record. Norn wrote, "liar,' adding that the call was "30 seconds max."

Barclay called Norn's use of the chat function "highly improper."

In a CBC article published May 5, Lamberink quotes Norn admitting he attended the legislature during his isolation period. "I'll wear that," Norn said. "If public health wants to do something with that, they can. Absolutely, I'll own it."

The audio recording from that conversation, which CBC was also compelled by subpoena to provide, was played during Tuesday's hearing.

When Lamberink's counsel Tess Layton objected to Cooper's line of questioning, Barclay agreed that asking about Lamberink's number of years as a journalist or CBC training on the journalistic standards and practices was not relevant.

Cooper had no further questions

Lawyer Ronald Halabi, also representing Norn, cross examined Dennis Marchiori, the director of compliance and enforcement operations with the territorial department of health and social services.

Halabi asked when exactly isolation begins and ends for isolating residents and how that information is made clear to the public.

Marchiori explained that isolation begins as soon as travellers return to the territory and ends only after their 14th day of isolation. In addition to email and telephone check ups from Protect NWT on days two, six, 10 and 14 of self isolation, Marchiori said instructions are in each individual's isolation plan and on the organization's website online.

Video surveillance footage was later shown of Norn entering the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly on April 17, one day prior to the end of his isolation period.

Brian Thagard, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the Legislative Assembly, and Robert Braine the security officer of the Legislative Assembly who was on duty when Norn visited on April 17, were questioned on the details of the MLA's visit and the process of documenting visitors.

The inquiry continues Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. The entire proceedings are being broadcast on the legislature's website.

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