YKDFN chiefs call on MLA Steve Norn to resign after alleged COVID-19 isolation breach

Chiefs Edward Sangris and Ernest Betsina wrote a letter to Premier Caroline Cochrane recommending she ask for MLA Steve Norn's resignation. They say their First Nation has "lost all confidence and trust" in him after he allegedly left self-isolation a day early.

In email to premier, Chiefs Edward Sangris and Ernest Betsina called Norn's alleged actions 'selfish'

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn pictured at the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly. The chiefs of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation are calling for Norn's resignation after he allegedly breached COVID-19 self-isolation requirements. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

The chiefs of Yellowknives Dene First Nation are calling on Northwest Territories MLA Steve Norn to resign after he allegedly breached COVID-19 self-isolation rules. 

In an email to Premier Caroline Cochrane, Dettah Chief Edward Sangris and Ndilǫ Chief Ernest Betsina, wrote that their First Nation has "lost all confidence and trust in this MLA and that he should not be allowed to represent our members in the legislature."

"[We] are extremely concerned by the risks posed to our members and the NWT due to the selfish actions of the MLA in question," the email reads.

"His disregard for the COVID-19 protocols and rules as established by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer is reprehensible."

Norn represents the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh riding, which includes Dettah, Ndilǫ, Łutselk'e, and Fort Resolution.

On April 22, he identified himself and a family member as two of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 in a cluster of five cases in Yellowknife linked to École St. Patrick High School. Officials say so far, this cluster is not connected to the 14 cases associated with the outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School. 

Cabin Radio first reported that Norn had visited the Legislative Assembly one day before his mandatory isolation period ended. 

"Here we are … trying to keep our community safe," said Sangris in an interview with CBC News. "I think that is something that the majority of people should be aware of."

Sangris also told CBC that the community has tried reaching Norn but has not been successful.

"There is no reply," he said, adding the only contact they had was when Norn first self identified. "He called us and then we were aware that what was going on with him. So that's about the extent of communicating with us."

MLAs were set to meet today to discuss his case. 

In their email, Sangris and Betsina wrote that they, along with their members, are recommending that the premier ask for Norn's resignation, adding that everyone, "including politicians and public officials, who inconsiderately puts themselves above the safety of others during the pandemic must face serious consequences for their actions."

"The Government of the Northwest Territories must take a tough stance on this incident and send a clear strong message to the people of the NWT that no one is above the law," the email says.

"We urge you and your MLAs to take strong action on this incident, if not the [Northwest Territories government] will be perceived as weak and send that wrong signal to others that the COVID-19 rules and protocols are to be disregarded." 

Cabinet response

In an emailed response to CBC, Trista Haugland, a spokesperson with the territory's cabinet communications, confirmed that Cochrane received a copy of the letter from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation's chiefs asking for Norn's resignation.

"However, it would be inappropriate for her to comment publicly about the issue," Haugland wrote.

"As leaders, the Yellowknives Dene First Nations chiefs are able to make their own decisions in the best interest of their residents, and it might be best to speak to them about the contents of their letter."