I was fired unfairly, Pond Inlet hamlet councillor says
A Pond Inlet hamlet councillor says his hamlet council acted illegally when they fired him for being charged, but not convicted, of a criminal offence.
POND INLET — Pond Inlet hamlet councillor Paul Innualuk says criminal charges laid against him shouldn’t stop him from carrying out his elected duties and he wants back into the hamlet chambers.
Two months ago, Innualuk received a letter asking him to refrain from attending any council meetings in light of recent criminal charges laid against him.
The letter, signed by Pond Inlet Mayor Paul Haulli, asks Innualuk to refrain “until your charges are cleared by the courts.” The letter refers to Pond Inlet’s discipline policy on employees’ discharge.
The policy states that the discharge of an employee may result from, but is not limited to… conviction of a major crime.
The letter left Innualuk “shocked,” and he says is now fighting to get his job back. But the clock is ticking.
Innualuk’s term as councillor runs out this month, and he is not running for re-election.
But he says he will continue to fight until he gets a public apology.
“I have not been convicted,” Innualuk said. “It’s basic to Canadian law, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I think it was malicious,” Innualuk said of the mayor’s action.
But Haulli said he thinks council did the right thing when it passed a motion asking Innualuk to temporarily step aside Pond Inlet residents were demanding action, he said.
“People start saying: ‘why is that the person who’s councillor? Why is council not doing anything?'” Haulli said. “We had to act on our people.”
Innualuk was charged with drug possession earlier his year. He says he is not guilty and is scheduled to reappear in court in February.
Innualuk contends he does not fall under the hamlet’s discipline policy because he is a councillor, not an employee.
Furthermore, he points out the policy only refers to criminal convictions, not charges. Innualuk suggests council only has the right to remove a councillor who is frequently absent.
Innualuk now wants an opportunity to defend himself in council chambers.
“I’ve been trying very hard to support the public. I’ve tried my best to listen to what they say and the mayor stops me like this?” Innualuk asked. “I find it very insulting.”
Haulli says Innualuk was not fired, but was only relieved of his duties until the criminal matter is resolved.
“We wanted him to have a good name. We put him on the side until the charge is dealt with,” he said.
“We’re sticking to the public. We’re on the public’s side.”
Innualuk has not tried to enter the council’s chambers since he received the letter. And he has only spoken to Haulli on the matter once, but he did write to the Nunavut justice department for help.
The matter has since been forwarded to the community government department, and Innualuk is still awaiting a response.