YELLOWKNIFE (June 25, 2021) – The Speaker of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, the Honourable Frederick Blake Jr., has issued the following statement:
The Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly (NTLA), like other assemblies across Canada has exclusive control over its grounds and buildings. This includes the ability to limit what law enforcement can and can’t do at the Assembly and on its grounds. This is sometimes referred to as a “parliamentary privilege”. Parliamentary privilege is a collection of rights that allow the Assembly to govern its own affairs, independent of the government or courts. This privilege exists to protect the rights of Members of the Assembly to perform their work holding the government to account, free from influence. It is a longstanding tradition which goes back hundreds of years.
In 2015, the NTLA Board of Management, which is responsible for the operation of the Assembly adopted a policy on law enforcement access to the Assembly and its grounds. This policy was adopted to ensure that a consistent approach was taken to how the Assembly worked with law enforcement officials. It applies to the RCMP, and any other person responsible for enforcing a law of Canada, a territorial law or regulation, or a municipal by-law. The policy requires that if they wish to enter the Assembly or its grounds, they require permission from the Speaker. The Speaker is not allowed to allow them access unless they have a warrant. This applies to when they want to search the Assembly, or arrest someone at the Assembly. Requiring a warrant prevents the government from abusing its authority under territorial law to enter and search premises.
In terms of recent reports relating to Public Health enforcement officers attempting to access records at the Assembly, the Speaker assures all Members, and NWT residents, that the Assembly followed its existing policy, adopted in 2015. As per the policy, the Acting Clerk advised the officials that they required a search warrant. After the officials obtained a warrant, which meant that an independent judge had reviewed and approved their request, the Assembly cooperated fully.