Steve Norn allegedly sent a message to a Facebook group including 16 of his fellow MLAs and two legislative assembly staff members that the lawyer to the adjudicator overseeing his hearing considers threatening and evidence of possible obstruction and witness intimidation.
“I just want to say f*** you for making my loved ones cry,” Norn allegedly sent to the group at 6:43 p.m. Sunday night, Oct. 3, the evening before the inquiry into a complaint about his conduct from caucus was to begin. “You squeezed my heart. Whoever backed this, I’m coming for you.”
The message was read into the record during an Oct. 7 hearing into a conduct complaint lodged against Norn by his fellow MLAs.
“The content of the message is threatening,” said Maurice Laprairie, lawyer to adjudicator R.L. Barclay. “And it raises the concern of obstruction. This could be intimidating to any of the MLAs who could have testified.”
In an Oct. 7 email, the RCMP indicated its longstanding policy is not to confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation.
Norn’s lawyer, Steven Cooper, objected strongly to the message being brought up. He questioned the authenticity of the copy Laprairie had and said his fellow lawyer was reading in not just intent but the fact that Norn had written it at all. He argued the message fell outside of the terms of reference for the inquiry.
“We don’t know the source. We don’t know where it came from,” Cooper said. “What does this communication have to do with any of this?”
Barclay agreed to exclude the message from the hearing.
Laprairie then unsuccessfully applied to question Norn in the form of a cross-examination, which is a more adversarial method than “direct” examination.
Laprairie said Norn had in a previous interview refused to answer questions under oath and acted disrespectfully, saying things like “I don’t even want to hear your voice right now.”
Cooper strongly objected to this, too, saying he had no notice of Laprairie’s intent to make the application. Adjudicator Barclay argued that as an experienced lawyer, Cooper should have anticipated such a move.
But after a recess to consider the point, he let Cooper’s objection stand “out of fairness” to Norn.
During the ensuing interview, Norn told Laprairie that he was exhausted in April of this year. He said he did not remember the April 23 follow-up interview with investigators, including an epidemiologist, nor some things he had said to Cabin Radio head of programming and news Ollie Williams that same day, or to CBC reporter Liny Lamberink on May 4.
“I was mentally fried,” he said. “I can’t stress that enough. I slept for … (only) several hours during that time. I was completely exhausted.”
Cooper used his cross-examination to paint a more sympathetic portrait of his client.
He had Norn describe working at the legislature as a constituency assistant for then-Tu Nedhe MLA Tom Beaulieu during the summer of 2014, then asked him to lead the hearing through the early days of the 19th Legislative Assembly.
Norn described the elation of being elected, the orientation process for new MLAs and the supports that were available to him, including through the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tim Mercer.
“It was really good,” Norn said. “I’d describe it as the honeymoon phase. It was exciting.”
He also described the “change” in tone in his relationship with the clerk’s office after he was removed from his position as chair of the accountability committee of MLAs in a vote May 14.
Asked if he thought the change had anything to do with his filing a complaint against Mercer in February, Norn said, “That’s very likely.”
He said at that time he felt he could still approach deputy clerk Glen Rutland but that more broadly his “support structure deteriorated.”
Norn said he can count on support from three MLAs, but not the rest. He did not name them.
The entire ordeal, including this week’s inquiry, was “out of proportion” to what he had done, said Norn. He added that he felt like a “pariah” after admitting he contracted Covid-19.
“It has seemed like through this entire ordeal, including this inquiry, it seems like I’m doing something treasonous,” he said. “It’s like I’m disrupting the government.”
The hearing continues Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. It is being broadcast on YouTube and hosted on the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly’s website.
The discussion at the end of the Oct. 7 session indicated there were three new matters added to the hearing Thursday morning when Norn was already under oath and couldn’t consult Cooper. When a witness is under oath, they are usually prohibited from discuss anything to do with their evidence with anyone. Barclay granted Norn permission to speak to Cooper only about those matters in the meantime.
It also appears at least one more day of oral arguments will be required and is expected to take place Friday, Oct. 15.