Steve Norn’s days in the 19th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories are numbered.
Norn said he would resign ahead of a vote that would almost certainly resulted in his expulsion from the House Nov. 23.
“I would never hurt anyone, I would never hurt a fly,” he said. “It’s something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my days,” he said. “I’ll still serve where I can, when I can.”
Norn made the claim after the rest of the MLAs were given the opportunity to speak for or against a motion by Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos that Norn, the member for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, be expelled from the legislature and that his seat be declared vacant.
Martselos said her office at the legislature is down the hall from Norn’s and she felt unsafe as an individual far from her support network in Fort Smith after receiving a message Norn sent to a Facebook group of MLAs and Legislative Assembly staff members Oct. 3, the night before his conduct hearing was to begin.
“Whoever backed this, I’m coming for you,” Norn wrote.
Martselos said as recently as last Thursday Norn’s actions had marred the dignity of the Legislative Assembly.
“Expulsion is the most serious sanction this assembly can impose,” Martselos said in proposing Norn’s ouster Nov. 23. “In this case, it is the only appropriate” course of action.
She said Norn’s pattern of “intimidating, threatening and insulting behaviour” directed at MLAs and Legislative Assembly staff, and his breach of his Covid-19 self-isolation protocol and misleading the public about it earlier this year, means he is no longer fit to serve.
While Norn said he would save his colleagues the vote by resigning, the wording of his statement didn’t satisfy the relevant legislation, according to Frederick Blake Jr., Speaker of the House.
So, the MLAs held a recorded vote: 17 in favour of declaring Norn’s seat vacant, zero opposed, no abstentions. Norn left the chamber during the recess.
The discussion started soon after MLAs resumed sitting Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 23.
Earlier in the afternoon, Blake said Norn threatened members of the NWT Legislative Assembly and employees.
Blake said Norn is accused of threatening to “come for” the deputy clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Glen Rutland, and that he would “cut the head or neck off the snake” in reference to another officer of the Assembly.
This is in addition to the message Norn sent to a Facebook group including at least 16 other MLAs and two Assembly staff members.
Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly, who said Monday he reached out to the RCMP after receiving the group Facebook message, said Tuesday he’d rather be working for a “better NWT” but that this was a serious matter that had to be dealt with.
He said he watched the entire public inquiry into the code of conduct complaint laid against Norn by MLAs in October and that he supported fully the finding of sole adjudicator Ronald Barclay, who determined that based on the code and Norn’s action, the only suitable course of action was to eject him.
Inuvik-Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler said it “saddened” her to have to remove an MLA. During Monday’s discussion, she said she felt unsafe travelling to Yellowknife because of Norn’s actions.
“As an Indigenous female the stats of violence are stacked against me, especially when i come from the NWT,” she said. “I never once thought I would be threatened in this House, where we as legislators are working on one of our priorities, which is to make the NWT a safer place for women.”
Premier Caroline Cochrane said Norn put the safety of NWT residents by breaching his self-isolation in April.
“The orders made by the chief public health officer are law, not suggestions,” Cochrane, also the MLA for Range Lake, said.
Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre and minister of Health, said she never thought she’d be applying the MLA code of conduct in a “situation like this” when she was helping to craft it during the last Legislative Assembly.
“This problem began a year ago,” Green said, speaking after Norn declared he would resign as MLA. “It began in this room in a confidential meeting and it has persisted for an entire year in different forms.”
She said the pattern was always the same: Norn didn’t like the outcome of a discussion, he said he thought he wasn’t being heard and that he was being treated in a racist manner.
Green said Norn’s explanation for his behaviour in the spring, that he was exhausted, did not sway her. Green said she took specific exception to his claim that he had a “political exemption” from his self-isolation protocol.
“This told me he thinks he is above the law,” she said. “He brought this House into disrepute.”