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N.W.T. MLA calls for ouster of fellow MLA over Facebook messages

Thebacha MLA Freida Martselos asked the Speaker of the N.W.T. legislature to find that Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn breached privilege so she can put forward a motion to have his seat vacated.

MLA Freida Martselos said Norn breached privilege with continued pattern of 'offensive language'

Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos speaking in the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly in February 2020. She said that if the Speaker finds that MLA Steve Norn breached privilege, she'll move a motion to have Norn vacate his seat. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada )

Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos is calling on the Speaker of the Northwest Territories Legislature to find that Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn breached privilege so she can put forward a motion to have his seat vacated.

On the first day of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly's fall sitting, Martselos said Norn made comments that undermined her feelings of public safety before a Legislative Assembly inquiry that looked into whether Norn had violated the MLA code of conduct took place.

The inquiry looked into whether Norn had breached a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period last April after returning to the N.W.T. from Alberta, and made inaccurate statements about it to media.

The sole adjudicator in the inquiry found Norn had violated the Legislative Assembly's code of conduct and recommended his expulsion from the assembly, and that his seat be declared vacant.

Martselos pointed to messages Norn sent to other caucus members and legislature support staff in which he said he would "come for them," for backing what led to the inquiry. 

Martselos noted in particular a Facebook message sent to an MLA group chat the night before the start of the public inquiry. In it, Norn wrote, "I just want to say f--k you for making my loved ones cry. You squeezed my heart. Whoever backed this, I'm coming for you."

Martselos also noted "offensive language" Norn used toward deputy clerk Glen Rutland and Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North and caucus chair, who filed the complaint with the territory's integrity commissioner on the caucus' behalf.

He told both of them that he was "coming for them."

Johnson later responded that although he did not interpret the comments as a physical threat, and that Norn apologized and the two went on to have an amicable conversation, he still believes the threats "amount to a breach in our privilege to feel safe in this house, to feel safe in our jobs."

'Intention was to intimidate us emotionally and psychologically'

Martselos said that Norn's conduct demonstrated "a continued pattern of threatening behaviour," and "undermined the dignity, integrity and efficient functioning of the Legislative Assembly as a whole."

Nine other members echoed Martselos's comments that officials need to be able to do their work without fear of threats or intimidation. 

Kevin O'Reilly, MLA for Frame Lake, told the Assembly that he called the RCMP after receiving Norn's Facebook message.

"The intention of the message from the member from Tu-Nedhé-Wiilideh remains unclear," O'Reilly said, "but I was very concerned for the safety of my family and myself knowing that the member for Tu-Nedhé-Wiilideh lives in Yellowknife, has been a member of RCMP and has likely received firearm training."

Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, said she thought about doing the same. 

Caroline Wawzonek, MLA for Yellowknife South, said she has heard multiple instances of Norn using language "that was more than rude. It was abusive."

Yellowknife South MLA Caroline Wawzonek said she understood Norn's use of "coming for you," to mean that "some form of revenge." (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

She said that she understand his use of "coming for you," to mean "some form of revenge."

"I believe that the intention was to intimidate us emotionally and psychologically," she said. "I believe this threat was to intimidate us into silence and inaction in our professional capacity ... His behaviour and his speech is that of someone who believes that the rules simply do not apply to him." 

Norn responded that his words were "in no way meant to be a physical threat."

'This has all been twisted out of context'

"If I scared anybody, I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart," he said. "This has all been twisted all out of context." 

Norn's comments to other MLAs and Legislature staff were outside the scope of the sole adjudicator's report ruling that Norn breached the MLA code of conduct . 

Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn. Several MLAs said in the N.W.T. Legislature Monday that Norn breached privilege by threatening to "come for" other members and legislature staff who supported what lead to a public inquiry into his breach of conduct. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly later in the day, but not in time for it to be discussed.

Norn was asked twice to stay on topic and retract comments made about the report while he was responding to his colleagues' statements.

The Northwest Territory Métis Nation (NWTMN) penned a letter to Speaker Frederick Blake Jr. over the weekend opposing the sole adjudicator's recommendation that Norn's seat be vacated, according to reporting from NNSL Media

Blake said that he would consider the matter and rule on whether there was a breach of privilege at a later date. 

The Legislative Assembly resumes Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

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