Rachel Saunders was removed as the Ordinary Member for Hopedale by the Nunatsiavut Assembly (NA) on Jan. 22.
According to news release from the NA, Saunders was suspended indefinitely without pay for refusing to adhere to penalties imposed on her for several breaches of the Nunatsiavut Code of Conduct Act.
An ad hoc disciplinary committee of the NA imposed the penalties in late November following two formal complaints regarding Saunders’ conduct.
“The Code of Conduct is an Inuit Law that applies to elected officials, with the expectation that leaders and representatives of the Inuit will lead lives deserving of respect, give guidance, act wisely and fairly and be respectable and considerate of all people,” the news release stated.
“The expectation is that elected officials will be leaders who will set a good example by their own behavior and will not engage in personal conduct that brings discredit to their offices.”
The ad hoc committee found that Saunders breached Section 2.2 of the code, which says all elected officials must act with integrity, including being honest and truthful, when she implied in a Facebook post 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 committee found that her post ignored the fact the HHC had presented valid reasons for its decision and outlined policy which justified its conclusion and, as such, propagated a “half-truth,” the news release stated.
Saunders also violated Section 2.4 of the code, according to the committee, which states that elected officials must not engage in personal conduct that would tend to bring discredit to their offices, by using profane language in Nunatsiavut Assembly Building, stomping out of a meeting and airing her frustrations on Facebook.
As well, the committee found Saunders violated Section 2.6 of the code. That section states: “Elected Officials must treat colleagues, constituents, public servants, and members of the public with the courtesy and respect that is their due.”
According to the committee, Saunders used the term “colonizers and oppressors” when referring to the HHC, which included elders and residential school survivors.
Saunders was given a one-week suspension, without pay, effective Dec. 3.
She was ordered to write a letter of apology to the HCC and directed to those who served on that committee at the time of the infraction.
She was also to write a letter of apology to all members of the NA, to be read during the current sitting, as well as one to her constituents, which was to be posted on the Hopedale News Facebook page, and to apologize to NA staffers present when she swore out loud and acted out in the Nunatsiavut Assembly Building.
All letters – except the apology to the NA – were supposed to be written by the end of November.
In December, Saunders told The Labradorian she felt the punishment was “too harsh” and that she was being treated differently than others who were sanctioned previously.
“I’m not going to agree to it,” she said. “I don’t know what happens then. I asked the Speaker (Edward Blake Rudkowski) what happened if I didn’t follow it and he said it was mandatory.”