Minister 'horrified' after revelations Northlands College board member was convicted of domestic assault

Saskatchewan's minister of advanced education says she is accountable for appointing a man charged and later convicted of domestic assault to the board of Northlands College.

Government does not check criminal records of potential board appointees

Minister of Advanced Education Tina Beaudry-Mellor said she did not know the criminal record of a Northlands College board appointee she recommended. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's minister of advanced education says she is accountable for appointing a man charged and later convicted of domestic assault to the board of La Ronge-based Northlands College.

On Nov. 1, Vincent Natomagan, was appointed to the board through an Order in Council to serve a three-year term. 

On Nov. 14, Natomagan pleaded guilty to domestic assault and a charge of uttering death threats was stayed.

The charges relate to an incident in Pinehouse Lake in August 2018.

The board appointments were reviewed and recommended by Minister of Advanced Education Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

Following question period, she took responsibility for Natomagan's appointment.

"I am horrified. Especially in the north where we have really high rates of domestic violence, we have really high rates of interpersonal violence — it is the wrong message to send. To say that I am horrified would be an understatement," Beaudry-Mellor said. 

Beaudry-Mellor is also the minister responsible for the status of women.

She said board members can make recommendations. She said community members will also make suggestions.

"This individual certainly had quite a fairly long list of I dare say the word accomplishments on his professional side now that I've heard these particular allegations," Beaudry-Mellor said.

"I had felt our vetting processes were quite thorough."

Beaudry-Mellor said it is not customary to order criminal record checks before appointing someone to a board. She said that need policy may change in the wake of this incident.

"I think as a government this is a conversation we are going to have to have immediately."

NDP MLA Carla Beck said the appointment should be cancelled immediately.

"Honestly, I want to know who made the decision to put someone with his history on a board of a college in this province. Given our history. Given the lip service that is paid to domestic violence. Someone needs to be accountable."

Minister surprised by revelations

During question period on Tuesday, Beck listed off convictions on Natomagan's record, which included assaults going back more than 20 years.

"I am appalled at hearing this. This will be looked into immediately. There is absolutely zero tolerance for this and we will be handling this," Beaudry-Mellor said.

"This is someone who has a serious history of violence including domestic violence," Beck said in the assembly. "Can the minister explain the complete failure in governance that led to Mr. Natomagan being appointed to the board of Northlands."

Speaker Mark Docherty, attempted to cut off the questioning, saying Beck was "on a line", but the exchanges continued.

Natomagan was almost a candidate for the constituency of Athabasca for the Saskatchewan Party in 2016, before withdrawing from the nomination. Candidates are typically subjected to criminal record checks before being approved by a political party. Beck brought up Natomagan's withdrawal from the Sask. Party nomination in her question.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 11 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca