Former business owner 'humiliated' after N.W.T. minister says meeting would be unsafe

Lisa Thurber, a former business owner living in Enterprise, N.W.T., said she feels "humiliated and disrespected" after a minister told her off for posting to social media about her difficulty securing a meeting.

Industry Minister Katrina Nokleby ignored meeting requests for 10 months, Lisa Thurber says

Lisa Thurber owned the gas station called Lisa's Place in Enterprise until 2019, when the property was foreclosed on. She says she's been trying to meet with Industry Minister Katrina Nokleby for months. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Lisa Thurber, a former business owner living in Enterprise, N.W.T., said she feels "humiliated and disrespected" after a minister told her off for posting to social media. 

Thurber said she emailed Katrina Nokleby, the territory's industry minister, at least twice a month for the last 10 months to set up a meeting, where they could talk about her former business, a gas station in Enterprise called Lisa's Place.

Her business was foreclosed on in 2019, after Thurber struggled to make ends meet.

The two had a meeting scheduled in March but that was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa Thurber's original Facebook post thanking Nokleby for 'not meeting with her' during her visit to Hay River and Enterprise in July. (Facebook )

In a June email, Nokleby said she would organize a call with Thurber, but no date was set.

Then, Nokleby came to Hay River and Enterprise for a ministerial visit at the end of July — and Thurber said she still didn't hear from her. 

That's when she said she decided to post her frustrations on Facebook, thanking the minister for "not taking the time" to meet with her. 

"I am somebody … and deserve the respect as anyone else and at the least, a phone call," the post reads. "I have tried to reach out to you through the appropriate steps … yet I continue to be ignored." 

Thurber posts a reply she received from Nokleby to Facebook after her initial post. Nokleby writes that a meeting will not 'be a safe space nor productive.' (Facebook)

Meeting won't be 'safe or productive space' 

In a response, Nokleby told Thurber she did not believe a meeting would be a "safe or productive space," based on the content of her Facebook post. 

"It is unfortunate that you did not want to wait for an opportunity to discuss this with me personally before you decided to take it to social media," her response reads on the Facebook post.

CBC has reached out to Nokleby for comment. She has not replied.

When asked about the social media post, Thurber said she felt like she had no other option. 

"[Nokleby's visit to Enterprise] just really ruffled my feathers. I'm tired of being ignored," Thurber told CBC. "I don't like social media when it's something that political, but I felt like I had no choice." 

After posting to Facebook, Thurber said she received two emails from the minister, with responses to questions she had asked months before about her business's foreclosure.

Thurber said she hopes the minister can do better. 

"[Nokleby] has an obligation to hear what I have to say," Thurber said. "This is why you're in politics — if you don't want to wear the bad with the good, then maybe that isn't the position for you."

Thurber said she also wanted to bring some suggestions to the minister's attention about how to better support Indigenous-led businesses in the North, including some changes to the way the N.W.T. Business Development and Investment Corporation hands out loans to businesses.

The old sign outside Lisa's Place gas station in Enterprise, N.W.T. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)