To the Residents of the Northwest Territories,
I know there has been a lot of interest and reporting on the internal affairs of the Legislative Assembly. I am writing this letter to you to clarify the record and explain what actions have been taken. The Assembly’s leadership, including the Board of Management, the Chair of Caucus and I, are unanimous in our support for the Assembly and its staff. We agree Members need to move forward and remain focused on serving your interests as residents of the NWT.
The complaints against the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly were thoroughly investigated. The Board hired an independent outside agency, Quintet Consulting, to conduct the investigation. In April of this year, the Board expanded the review’s terms of reference to invite anyone, past or present, elected or unelected, to come forward with additional allegations or concerns regarding the Clerk or the workplace.
The four original complainants provided the names of individuals they wanted interviewed. Quintet reached out to everyone identified. Not all MLAs were identified and contacted, but every sitting Member was invited to contact the investigators if they wanted to raise concerns or participate in the investigation.
With respect to the incident between Mr. Thompson and the Clerk on March 13, 2020, Quintet provided an opportunity for this to be investigated. Despite this opportunity, no complaint was filed. Further, Mr. Thompson advised me shortly after the incident that he and Mr. Mercer apologized to each other and that Mr. Thompson considered the issue closed.
The Board accepts Quintet’s findings. We are addressing issues flowing from the investigation, including the finding that a breach of confidentiality occurred.
Like the complaints against the Clerk, Quintet thoroughly investigated the workplace itself. The Board, the leadership of the Assembly and I have accepted their findings. While the report said positive things about the leadership and work environment at the Legislative Assembly, it also identified issues and made recommendations to improve the workplace. Some of these recommendations were addressed to Members themselves.
Since the report was made public, I have worked closely with the Board of Management, Caucus and the Clerk to develop an action plan to implement these recommendations. Consultations with staff were delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak at the legislature and the delayed sitting of the House. They will continue this week and next, and it is my intention to release the Action Plan before Christmas. Its implementation is a priority for me, the Board of Management and the Clerk.
With respect to the affidavits sworn by Mr. Jacobson and others, these were provided to the Inquiry as part of an application for subpoenas by Mr. Steve Norn. Mr. Norn wanted Caucus’ complaint against him dismissed and said the Inquiry was tainted by conflict of interest and institutional bias due to incidents involving the Office of the Clerk that occurred before the complaint against Mr. Norn. The Inquiry judge dismissed this application and ruled that it was appropriate for the Board of Management and the Assembly’s legal counsel to receive those affidavits to respond to the application.
The Board of Management regrets the time it has taken to respond to the fourth complainant, and I sincerely apologize for this delay. We accept the investigation’s finding that there was a breach of confidentiality and have apologized to the complainant. The Board has taken steps to deal with the issue internally.
Except as noted above, the Assembly considers these matters closed and will not comment on them further.
It is a great honour to serve as the Speaker of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly. The last two years have been challenging for us all, for many reasons. Despite these challenges, Members and staff have continued to work hard and make progress on a number of initiatives. We now have less than two years left in this Assembly with a great deal of work remaining. With the holiday season approaching and a new year about to begin, I know I speak for all Members when I say we look forward to focusing all of our energy on the business of the Legislative Assembly and working together to tackle the very real issues we face as northerners.
Frederick Blake Jr.
Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly