‘I don’t agree with his decision’: Norn responds to removal recommendation

Steve Norn during the public hearing.

Steve Norn says he isn’t going anywhere — for now.

During a news conference on Thursday afternoon, the Tu Nehdé-Wiilideh MLA said, “I’m still going to be doing my job here until I’m voted out or told otherwise.”

The remark came a day after the sole adjudicator that oversaw the public hearing into conduct complaints against Norn recommended he lose his seat in the Legislative Assembly.

In his report, Ronald Barclay said Norn “betrayed the trust and confidence of the public” when the MLA broke his isolation in April, and misled public health officials.

“I have to take that with a grain of salt because that’s his interpretation,” Norn said Thursday. “I don’t agree with his decision.”

Asked whether he could still do the job and properly represent his constituents, Norn said that he’d been working for them throughout the entire proceedings.

He was also asked to respond to a constituent that said they regretted voting for him following the ordeal.

“It’s no secret most of my voters came from Deninu Kųę́ and Łutselkʼe,” said Norn. “If you look back through the election, I didn’t get a whole lot of support from the north of the lake. But, it is what it is, they’re obviously entitled to their opinions. But, I’m sorry that they feel that way.”

Earlier this year, the chief of Deninu Kųę́ First Nation public stated his support for Norn, while the chiefs of Yellowknives Dene First Nation called for his removal.

Norn said he wants to get back to doing his job in the Legislative Assembly and working with fellow MLAs “without this hanging over my head.”

“We have mandates that we have to live up to you, we have to work together to make our territory better,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been sent here to do.”

Norn’s lawyer criticizes hearing

The news conference began after a bizarre attempt at banning Cabin Radio from participating.

Cabin Radio’s reporting came up in the hearing, specifically that Norn told the news outlet that he’d “followed all the rules” when he’d, in fact, broken isolation at the time.

Steven Cooper, Norn’s laywer, during the public hearing.

Norn’s lawyer, Steven Cooper, opened by saying the organization was “not welcome here”; it was not given the opportunity to ask any questions.

Following his comments, Cooper criticized the hearing, saying it was a “foretold and foregone” conclusion that Norn would face severe punishment.

He reiterated many critiques that he brought up during the hearing, including that the sole adjudicator’s lawyer, Maurice Laprairie, was practicing law without being approved by the NWT law society. Barclay dismissed this during the hearing, saying the law society had dropped the ball and there was a minor delay in the approval process.

He also claimed Barclay dismissed evidence that “would tend to support Mr. Norn’s version of events”; that Barclay and Laprairie were not fit to render a judgement since they were not familiar with the political context of the NWT.

Again, the report concludes with only a recommendation to oust Norn. The MLAs that must decide whether to follow through.

And if they do, Cooper said they should be “afraid, very afraid” and “don’t sleep well at night” because MLAs will set the precedent of removing each other from office rather than that being left up to voters.

MLAs return to the Legislative Assembly on Nov. 22.

Rylund Johnson, the caucus chair, told CKLB he’s “confident” the matter will be dealt with in the upcoming session.

CKLB asked the Legislative Assembly whether it had any concerns around the hearing process.

Speaker Frederick Blake Jr. reiterated that he would table the report in the upcoming session but ultimately declined to comment “out of respect for this process.”

Updated 1 p.m. with a the response from the Speaker.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis has been a general news reporter with CKLB since January 2019. Originally from rural Ontario, he first came to the NWT in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine and fell in love with the North. In his time with CKLB, he's had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures. Otherwise, you can find him hanging around the Legislative Assembly. If you have a story or want to chat, reach out to francis@cklbradio.com