Steve Norn, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh on Monday debunked a claim that a cabinet minister used a racial slur against him in late May.
A man named Stuart York made the claim in a post on his Facebook page on Friday. The post was sent to NNSL Media’s Facebook “inbox.”
In it, York claimed Nokleby called Norn an “aboriginal piece of s—.” It elicited at least 48 comments, many expressing both skepticism or shock, and was shared at least 17 times.
It was later revised to clarify that “aboriginal” was not uttered by Nokleby.
In a phone interview with NNSL Media on Monday, Norn confirmed that Nokleby called him a “piece of s—” but that she didn’t use any racial language.
“We were in the middle of a non-confidence motion (at the time). She was angry. (But) I can say that there were no racist slurs,” Norn said.
“When things calmed down (Nokleby) apologized,” Norn said.
“I don’t want to make the legislative assembly a laughing stock. Some things are done at times of heightened emotion. I didn’t say anything about this for a long time. I don’t know Minister Nokleby to (be someone who) uses racist terms. If you don’t have a thick skin in this game you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Nokleby issued a statement on Monday, saying the exchange with Norn “was a private discussion between two colleagues many months ago. There’s nothing further to comment on and I’m going to leave it there.”
Norn said Nokleby made the comment prior to his tabling a motion to have her removed from cabinet in the legislature May 27. He told NNSL Media this took place “a day or two before,” meaning May 25 or 26.
Nokleby serves as minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and minister of Infrastructure.
The motion was seconded by Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South. It was the subject of much confusion and speculation for two days before it was withdrawn on May 29.
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Kieron Testart, former MLA for Kam Lake addressed the heated episode in a Facebook post on Monday.
“I hate to break it to you but MLAs are far from civil to each other despite whatever rosy ideas you have about consensus government,” he said.
“A minister once took me aside, called me a ‘f—— a——‘ and threatened to ‘tell everyone he could’, and this was in the Members Lounge of all places. I was called a ‘racist’ in a public committee hearing by a member who disagreed with me on the topic of discussion. I’m sure other politicians past and present can tell you similar stories.
“Obviously this isn’t OK. When it comes from a Cabinet Minister it’s especially shocking because of the power dynamics at play.
If this happened to you at your workplace it wouldn’t be OK but for MLAs it’s just part of the office culture.”