NG minister removed and sanctioned
Rachel Saunders feels punishment is too harsh
The Nunatsiavut Government (NG) issued a press release on Nov. 28 stating Rachel Saunders, the Ordinary Member for Hopedale, was the subject of two formal complaints and was found guilty by a disciplinary committee of three breaches of the Code of Conduct for Elected Officials.
She was ordered to apologize to the Hopedale Housing Committee (HHC), the Nunatsiavut Assembly, her constituents, and staff members who were present during a meeting she attended. She was also given a one-week suspension as an Ordinary Member.
Saunders, the former Minister of Education and Economic Development, is saying the punishment imposed upon her is too harsh and she feels she’s being treated differently than other people who were sanctioned in the past.
“I’m not going to agree to it,” Sanders said. “I don’t know what happens then. I asked the Speaker (Edward BlakeRudkowski) what happened if I didn’t follow it and he said it was mandatory.”
According to Saunders, when she attended the meeting of the HHC that is in question, it was in relation to a family matter and she was not there in her official capacity as minister.
“I was there because they were trying to take our family home and I got upset,” she said. “I was just there as a family member trying to get it fixed.”
In terms of the punishment, Saunders referenced a former member of the Assembly who had similar complaints and simply had to write a letter of apology. She doesn’t understand why a stricter punishment is being levied on her.
“It should be equal. If he just had to do that why should I do this?” she said.
Saunders told The Labradorian she would like to see an investigation or inquiry about the transparency of the NG and the protocols they followed in dealing with the Code of Conduct complaints against her.
“If the Nunatsiavut Government is honouring transparency with openness honesty and accountability then they should have no issue with an investigation as to how they deal with code of conduct complaints and its processes,” she said. “I would like to know the steps they have used in my case. I find it sad that our own government can so easily deem our own people ‘unreasonable’ and do not support the very people who want to help the Inuit in matters that affect the lives of the Inuit.”
According to the release from NG, two of the breaches of the act involved Facebook posts.
“The Facebook post put out by Ms. Saunders implied that an injustice had been perpetrated by the Hopedale Housing Committee (HHC) and that a member of her family was the victim of that injustice,” the release read. “Ms. Saunders post ignored the fact that the HHC had presented valid reasons for their decision and outlined policy which justified their conclusion and as such propagated a ‘half-truth’.”
The other breach involving social media came after Saunders swore in the Assembly building and left a meeting in progress. According to NG she then aired her frustrations on Facebook and did not conduct herself in an appropriate manner.
The third breach also involves the HHC. The release states she used the term “colonizers and oppressors” when referring to the HHC.
“The HHC board included elders and residential school survivors who were very understandably upset by this characterization,” the release said.
The Nunatsiavut Government Code of Conduct for Elected Officials states a disciplinary committee can impose three sanctions; reprimand, suspension without pay and recommendation of removal from office.
The Labradorian will provide further updates as they become available.