Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador says it has no jurisdiction to review impeachment of elected Labrador Inuit government official who refused to apologize

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, NL — The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has ruled that it has no jurisdiction to review a decision by the Nunatsiavut Assembly to impeach a former elected official who refused to issue a public apology.

Aboriginal self-government, which represents the Inuit of the northern coast of Labrador, had voted to impeach Rachel Saunders, then Minister for Education and Economic Development and Ordinary Member representing Hopedale, in 2019.

An ad hoc disciplinary committee had ordered Saunders to apologize to the Hopedale Housing Committee, the Nunatsiavut Assembly, her constituents and her staff for remarks she allegedly made at a meeting and about social networks.

The committee determined that Saunders violated the code of conduct for elected officials and suspended her for a week in addition to ordering a public apology.

She refused to apologize, saying it would amount to dishonesty, and was removed from office by the Nunatsiavut Assembly, which is made up of elected officials from the Nunatsiavut region.

Saunders asked the court for a judicial review of the decision, saying it violated his free speech rights and that they denied his procedural fairness in the process.

In a written decision released September 22, Justice Sandra R. Chaytor denied the request and ruled in favor of the Nunatsiavut government, saying the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador lacks jurisdiction to review the resolution or the disciplinary process that led to it. .

“The Nunatsiavut Assembly, as a legislative body, has all the privileges, immunities and powers necessary to function as an effective parliamentary institution,” Chaytor wrote.

“The Assembly’s parliamentary privilege over the regulation of its internal affairs, including its privilege to regulate the standards and conduct of its members, applies to the resolution of the Nunatsiavut Assembly to remove Ms. Saunders from its functions.

Chaytor said the request for review was essentially a challenge to the actions and decision of the disciplinary committee, but noted that the committee did not impeach Saunders, unlike the legislature.

“Although the Discipline Committee recommended that Saunders be removed from office for continuing to refuse to apologize, the Nunatsiavut Assembly was not bound by this decision,” she wrote.

“The Nunatsiavut Assembly has made the final decision to remove Saunders from office.

Chaytor also wrote that the committee was a “statutory delegate” of the Inuit government and, to the extent relevant, would be accorded the same parliamentary privilege as the Nunatsiavut government.

Not extending to Nunatsiavut parliamentary privilege similar to those held by other legislatures in Canada would be contrary to the principles underlying the Labrador Inuit Lands Agreement, she said.

“If the court were to be allowed to challenge the Assembly’s decision to discipline the members, it would breach its privilege and risk creating a loss of faith in Inuit self-government.

Thelma J. Longworth