UPDATED: Nadli not first Northern politician to win with criminal conviction

Justice system “not supportive” of indigenous women, said Arlene Hache.

By: Avery Zingel

Michael Nadli has been re-elected as Deh Cho MLA, despite criticisms about his recent conviction for spousal assault.

Michael Nadli won the Deh Cho seat in N.W.T. territorial election. Photo via Facebook.

Michael Nadli won the Deh Cho seat in N.W.T. territorial election. Photo via Facebook.

Nadli is not the first political candidate in the North with a criminal record to be publicly reprimanded by women’s advocates.

He got an early release, and served eight days in jail out of a 45-day sentence for breaking his wife’s wrist.

In an interview, CKLB asked Nadli about his encounter with the law and what he would do about domestic violence in the N.W.T.

“I have to move forward. I’ve taken full responsibility for my actions, and I regret what did happen,” Nadli said. “At the same time life goes on and I need to move forth.”

Based on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there should be enhanced programs that meet families trying to improve themselves “halfway,” Nadli said.

It would give some perspective on the legacy of residential schools and “how it affects generations,” Nadli said.

Women’s advocates say justice system condones violence

The justice system, “condoned what he did,” said Arlene Hache, former executive director of the Centre for Northern Families.

“[Nadli] got a pass,” Hache said. “Early release sends a message. The message is you didn’t do anything all that wrong.”

In its leniency, the justice system is “not supportive” of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women, she said.

Facebook posting void of mention of assault

Nadli put an announcement on Facebook saying he would be running once again for Deh Cho MLA.

Hache had no intentions of making a public comment, until she saw the support Nadli’s post received, she said.

Nadli got more than 50 Facebook likes and comments encouraging him, but no mention of the assault, she said.

“We can’t have what’s going on muddied by ‘nice, nice,’” Hache said.

In her own public posting, she had asked for him to withdraw his candidacy and focus on healing.

Criminal records not an obstacle to northern politicians

However, there are numerous instances of politicians in the N.W.T. and Nunavut seeking election and being elected to positions of power, after being implicated in crimes against their spouses, or women.

North Douglas, who has two convictions for spousal assault (one in 1984 and another in 1997) ran for president of the North Slave Métis Alliance in 2003.

Five years after the last conviction, he was elected as president.

The N.W.T.’s Status of Women Council stood behind a group of Métis women in speaking out against his election.

“Leaders should not be people who are perpetrating violence,” Hache said.

In 2000, former Nunavut speaker Levi Barnabas was convicted of sexual assault, and did not serve a jail sentence, but had to complete 240 hours of community work, and contribute financially to a woman’s shelter.

According to facts read in court, an Iqaluit woman awoke to Barnabas touching her breasts, and trying to penetrate her.

He resigned from the Nunavut legislature, but was appointed to a cabinet position in 2008.

According to the CBC, women’s advocates at the time decried his appointment, asking him to step down.

Politicians convicted of criminal offences not legally barred from office

However, the Elections N.W.T. mandates that a person is not eligible as a candidate while imprisoned in a correctional institution.

Nadli would have been in jail at the time he announced his candidacy.

In a federal election, a person imprisoned less than two years in a correctional institution is disqualified from being a candidate, according to parliamentary research.

The N.W.T. justice department would not comment on why Nadli was given early release. An inmate can apply for release after serving one sixth of a sentence, based on factors like risk of reoffending, and work done by the offender to address their actions.

There can also be restrictions placed on an inmate with early release, but the department would not comment on what Nadli’s restrictions are.

Hache questioned why candidates with very-recent convictions are able to run.

“A leader needs to be ready to lead. And when you are convicted of assault, you are not ready to lead,” Hache said.

“I get the sense that people who know Mr. Nadli want him to feel okay,” Hache said.

“I want the same thing…but real recovery and freedom from all those negative things is looking at that thing full in the face, and understanding what it is, why a person is violent, so that they can choose something different.”

Nadli won out over three other candidates for MLA Deh Cho.

[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1PXMZkR”]Nadli among other politicians who won elections w/ criminal conviction[/tweetthis]