North

Committee calls for 5-year ban on running for MLA after family violence conviction

Some MLAs in the Northwest Territories want people convicted of family violence to be barred from running for a seat in the legislative assembly for five years.

Rule would not apply to people who have received a pardon or record suspension

Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre and a member of the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures, says 'There is currently no impediment in law to anyone who has served his or her sentence to becoming a candidate, and this is generally the case across Canada.' (CBC)

Some MLAs in the Northwest Territories want people convicted of family violence to be barred from running for a seat in the legislative assembly for five years.

The rule would apply to people convicted of offences of violence or threats of violence "where the offence was committed against a person over whom the accused was determined by the presiding judge to be in a position of trust, authority or intimacy."

The recommendation is one of several made Tuesday by the five-member Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures.

It comes nearly a year and a half after Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife, was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was released after serving eight days.

His early release from jail allowed him to run for a second term and he was re-elected.

"During the committee's hearings, members of the public reminded us that there have been members of the legislative assembly who had committed crimes," said Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green, reading from the committee's report.

"There is currently no impediment in law to anyone who has served his or her sentence to becoming a candidate, and this is generally the case across Canada."

In a statement emailed to CBC, Nadli said that that he "[understood the report will be brought to Committee of the Whole. It is here when the report and recommendations will be discussed."

The committee's report was shared with all MLAs on Feb. 23. 

The recommendation comes at the behest of the YWCA and Status of Women Council of the N.W.T., the latter of whom cites "epidemic" rates of family violence in the territory.

Additional barrier to candidates

But the Yellowknife Women's Society has cautioned against the move, saying it could prove a barrier to some potential candidates.

"Indigenous individuals running for election, especially women, already face several barriers, and implementing a ban on running for office after jail time has been served would only serve to further disadvantage Indigenous candidates," the society wrote the committee last December.

The committee's recommendation would require an amendment to the territory's Elections and Plebiscites Act, and still needs to be debated by all MLAs.

The rule would not apply to people who have received a pardon or record suspension.

"Some presenters to the committee also noted that a truly rehabilitated offender might be capable of exemplary leadership and if they become a candidate, their transformation should be assessed by voters," said Green.

She also pointed out that current code of conduct guidelines for sitting MLAs require them to obey all laws of Canada and the territory.

"Candidates for the assembly should be held to similar standards," she said.

The committee hopes to enact the change in time for the 2019 territorial election.

The committee is also recommending that the current guidelines be used to create an actual code of conduct "including more specific and enforceable provisions," and for the territory's conflict-of-interest commissioner to have oversight over that code.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips and ideas welcomed at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca