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Steve Norn won’t quit

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn is refusing to resign from his position. The Yellowknives Dene First Nation, located in his electoral district, sent a letter to Premier Caroline Cochrane and Members of the Legislative Assembly saying that they want him to step down. NNSL file photo

Embattled MLA Steve Norn told Yellowknifer on a phone call on Tuesday that he has no plans to resign.

"I won't be resigning," he said. 

He then said he had to end the phone conversation to attend to a personal matter and could not be reached for further comment before press time. 

The representative for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh made the comment after caucus recommended a complaint be filed with the Integrity Commissioner.

Norn faces criticism that he came out of self-isolation to enter the legislative assembly on April 17, the day before his isolation period was scheduled to end.

In a legislative assembly news release on May 4, it was stated that MLAs — who met as a caucus earlier in the morning — provided direction to caucus chair and Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson to file the complaint.

Johnson confirmed in a message to Yellowknifer that he will file the complaint with the Integrity Commissioner "as soon as feasible."

The MLA announced in a statement on April 23 that he tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a trip to Alberta. A member of his family also tested positive.

The GNWT did not comment on the allegation, nor on questions as to whether a member of Norn’s family had attended a party with students from St. Patrick and Sir John Franklin high schools on April 17.

The Integrity Commissioner, an independent statutory officer appointed by the legislative assembly can receive and investigate complaints that an MLA is in a conflict of interest or has breached the Code of Conduct.

On receipt of a complaint, the Commissioner must give notice to the member and then investigate the complaint.

When the investigation is completed, the Integrity Commissioner delivers a report to the speaker, Frederick Blake Jr., the complainant and the member whose actions are the subject of the complaint.

The Commissioner can also dismiss the complaint for a reason set out in section 102 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act.

Louis Balsillie headshot
Chief Louis Balsillie of the Deninu Ku'e First Nation.
NNSL file photo

In a May 4 letter obtained by NNSL Media written by Chief Louis Balsillie of (DKFN) in Fort Resolution to Premier Caroline Cochrane, her Cabinet and MLAs, he said his community supports Norn and opposes calls for his resignation.

“We also want to strongly state that we are not in support of his removal as Member of the Legislative Assembly,” he said, in the letter that was also cc’d to Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chiefs Ed Sangris and Ernest Betsina, as well as Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation Darryl Marlowe.

The electoral district of Tu Nedhé - Wiilideh encompasses the two Yellowknives communities of N’dilo and Dettah as well as Lutsel k’e and Fort Resolution.

Balsillie was adamant that his community supports Norn.

“We are aware of concerns raised regarding his violation in going to the Legislative Assembly after hours during his recent isolation upon returning from travel out of the NWT,” Balsillie wrote.

“We do not know the facts surrounding any incidents that have been posted in the media but do support reprimand if required.”

Balsillie said he and members in his community view his mistakes as being due to “human error” and were not deliberate.

He added that Norn has represented the community well.

“As our representative for the Tu Nedhé - Wiilideh riding, Mr. Norn has performed well for his people by being vocal on issues within our region, health, housing, justice and education,” Balsillie said.

The letter is in sharp contrast to a letter sent to the Premier and MLAs by YKDFN Chiefs Ernest Betsina (N’dilo) and Chief Ed Sangris (Dettah) who called for Norn’s resignation.

In their letter, Betsina and Sangris stated they lost faith in Norn as a representative of the electoral district and expressed “extreme concern” with regard to what they perceived Norn posed to YKDFN members.

“His disregard for the COVID-19 protocols and rules as established by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer is reprehensible,” Betsina and Sangris wrote.

“We the Chiefs and our members recommend that you ask for the resignation of this MLA.”

Betsina and Sangris said in the letter that “politicians and public officials” must “face serious consequences” if they put residents at risk.

“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,” they wrote.

NNSL Media attempted to reach Jason Snaggs, chief executive officer of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) on Tuesday, but he was unavailable. Attempts to reach the Yellowknives chiefs by end of day Tuesday were also unsuccessful.

A cabinet communications official with the Press Secretary’s office May 4 that Premier Caroline Cochrane received a copy of the letter sent by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

When asked if she has ever asked Norn to resign or asked the YKDFN to write a letter calling for him to step down, she said no.

“She has spoken to the MLA on a number of occasions, but has never asked for him to resign his position, and did not ask the Yellowknives Dene First Nations to write any letter,” stated the communications official.

“As leaders, they are able to make their own decisions in the best interest of their residents.”