North

Expulsion of MLA Steve Norn recommended by inquiry adjudicator

Ethics report into conduct of N.W.T. MLA Steve Norn released recommends his expulsion and that his seat be declared vacant.

Ronald L. Barclay also recommends Norn's seat be declared vacant

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, pictured here in the Legislative Assembly, was the subject of an inquiry into his actions in April. The inquiry's adjudicator recommended the expulsion of Norn from the N.W.T. Legislature and that his seat be declared vacant. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The adjudicator appointed to investigate the conduct of MLA Steve Norn has recommended his expulsion and that his seat be declared vacant.

Ronald L. Barclay found the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA in violation of numerous sections of the Legislative Assembly's code of conduct.

The inquiry which began last month, had sought answers as to whether Norn had breached the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period last April after returning to the N.W.T. from Alberta, and if he had made inaccurate statements about it to media outlets.

The inquiry resulted in a 191-page report released Wednesday evening. 

The adjudicator indicated he found Norn had a "cavalier attitude," potentially exposing hundreds of people.

He also said his actions "failed to uphold the integrity and honour of the legislative assembly and its members," making expulsion appropriate.

Norn told CBC News Wednesday evening, following the report's release, that he was not prepared to comment at this time upon advice from his lawyer, but would be holding a media availability soon.

Throughout the investigation, Norn has maintained that breaking isolation rules after returning from an April trip to Alberta was the result of confusion. 

Misleading the public

An initial complaint was made on behalf of caucus by Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson, who serves as caucus chair.

Testifying in October at the public inquiry, Norn was asked about inconsistencies in his statements to public health staff.

MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh Steve Norn pictured at the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly in 2020. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

He said he thought his isolation period following a trip to Alberta, from which he came back on April 4, was complete on April 18, 2021. He said he made a mistake. 

"That was an oversight on my part and I apologize for that," he said.

"Hindsight is always 20/20. If I could do it over again, I would have contacted public health to get some clarifications because a lot of their messaging, to be honest, was confusing."

The adjudicator found Norn's statements to media particularly egregious, because it constituted misleading the public regarding compliance with self-isolation orders. 

Norn gave reporters from CBC News and Cabin Radio in the spring different statements about attending the legislature during his isolation period. Both Cabin Radio's head of programming and news, Ollie Williams, and CBC News reporter Liny Lamberink were called in to provide testimonies during the inquiry this fall. 

The adjudicator also found Norn misled public health officials with respect to the dates he attended the Legislature and a local racquet club, impeding the work of public health officials in keeping the public safe during the pandemic, potentially exposing others.

The inquiry's report was submitted to the Speaker who must table the report in the Legislative Assembly at the earliest opportunity for it to decide how to proceed with the recommendations. 

With files from Natalie Pressman

now