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Grand Chief's leadership questioned

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, December 20, 2007

LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - The Dehcho First Nations is planning a special assembly so it can review Herb Norwegian's position as grand chief.

Norwegian's leadership has been called into question as a result of his recent conviction for assault.

The decision to call a special assembly was made on Dec. 17 during a teleconference call among chiefs, Metis presidents and elders. The call lasted several hours, according to a press release from Dehcho First Nations (DFN). Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus chaired the meeting.

The assembly, which will take place from Jan. 29 to 31, is expected to be held in Fort Simpson although Hay River has been designated as an alternate site.

The leadership's decision to call a special assembly was based on a 1994 assembly resolution that allows a review or recall of DFN's grand chief. Norwegian is mid-way through a second three-year term.

The Dehcho First Nations doesn't have a written policy about violence but leadership have passed a number of resolutions on the issue, said Roy Inglangasuk, the executive director of DFN.

"Our leadership has expressed a zero tolerance," said Inglangasuk.

The Dehcho First Nations is also examining whether having a criminal record will affect Norwegian's eligibility to be grand chief. Past leadership assemblies have asked that a set of criteria for people looking to be Grand Chief be established, said Inglangasuk. Those criteria could involve criminal records.

Although work has been done to establish criteria it hasn't been taken to the leadership for approval yet, said Inglangasuk.

Norwegian appeared in Territorial Court in Fort Simpson on Dec. 11 and pleaded guilty to a charge of assault.

The charge arose from an incident on Nov. 11, 2007, and involved a woman. RCMP officers said the victim wasn't injured in the assault which involved a backhanded slap across the victim's face.

Norwegian was sentenced to one day in jail, 50 hours of community service and six months of probation. During the probation period Norwegian will have to attend all counselling sessions suggested by his probation officer.

During his court appearance, Norwegian, 55, apologized for his actions.

"I'm really sorry for what happened," Norwegian said, according to the court transcript.

Following his conviction, Norwegian told Deh Cho Drum that he has talked with the executive for the Dehcho First Nations and some elders and has decided to take some time off from his role as grand chief.

"I'm really sorry for everyone that was involved in this," he said.

"I'm really embarrassed about it."

Norwegian said he has been dealing with a lot of personal issues including effects from time spent in residential school.

"It's something I have to deal with," he said.

Norwegian said he has been taking counselling for the past two weeks and will be seeking more help.

"I'm just really sorry I've hurt so many people in my time," said Norwegian.