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N.W.T. MLA alleges health minister breached COVID-19 rules, asks for investigation

A Northwest Territories MLA has asked for an independent investigation of allegations that the territories’ health minister violated COVID-19 rules.

MLA says formal complaint filed alleging Minister Diane Thom was at a cabin party in March

In his request to the integrity commissioner, Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson, left, says a formal complaint was filed April 10 alleging Health Minister Diane Thom, right, was at a party at a friend's cabin in March. (Sara Minogue/CBC and Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

A Northwest Territories MLA has asked for an independent investigation into allegations that the territory's health minister violated COVID-19 public health rules.

In his request to the integrity commissioner, Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson says a formal complaint was filed April 10 alleging Minister Diane Thom was at a party at a friend's cabin in March.

Jacobson said the complaint noted that at least nine others were there, including people who were supposed to be self-isolating after returning from travel outside the territory.

Jacobson does not indicate when in March the party occurred. The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer closed the border on March 21 and required anyone from returning from outside the territory to self-isolate for two weeks. A ban on all parties and visitors did not come into effect until April 11.

In the letter, Jacobson asks commissioner David Jones to appoint an investigator from outside the N.W.T. to look into the allegations against Thom.

The fact she disregarded her own order shows that she believes the rules do not apply to her.- MLA Jackie Jacobson in letter to commissioner

CBC News reached Jacobson by phone on Friday. He refused to talk about the allegations or the letter, but confirmed he wrote it and said he submitted it to Jones on Friday morning.

In his letter, Jacobson also says the complaint also alleges Thom drove a snowmobile after drinking alcohol.

"This government expected everyone to comply with its health measures, there were no exceptions given for the minister," said Jacobson in his letter. "The fact she disregarded her own order shows that she believes the rules do not apply to her."

In the letter, Jacobson said the allegations were brought to the attention of MLAs in a caucus meeting and, later, in a May 26 meeting of the standing committee on accountability and oversight.

Jacobson said in both instances, Premier Caroline Cochrane denied that any formal complaint had been made.

"The truth is that not only was a formal complaint submitted on April 10 to Mr. [Bruce] Cooper [deputy minister of health] but also subsequent complaints were submitted to Glen Rutland, deputy clerk, Lesa Semmler, MLA for Twin Lakes, and to the speaker [Frederick Blake]," wrote Jacobson.

CBC News requested interviews with Thom and Cochrane but received no immediate response. A phone message left with Semmler was not immediately returned.

In an emailed response, the integrity commissioner said he was "not able to comment."

The Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act gives the commissioner the authority to investigate complaints and, where warranted, appoint an adjudicator to hold an inquiry into them.

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