Give Darius Elias some space

Darius Elias, the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, was recently charged with talking on his cell phone while driving and refusing to take a breathalyzer during a traffic stop.

Darius Elias, the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, was recently charged with talking on his cell phone while driving and refusing to take a breathalyzer during a traffic stop. This was followed by a public admission by Elias of a drinking problem and a promise to seek appropriate help to overcome same.

This sequence of events inevitably lead the chattering classes to call for further action from Elias, ranging from demands for his resignation from the House to calls for further information from Elias concerning the historical extent of his alcohol issue. There were even calls in this newspaper for the premier to disclose what he knew concerning Elias’s issues and when he knew it.

I take the position that Elias and the government have taken all necessary steps at this point, and that neither Elias, and certainly not the premier, should further publicly discuss a matter that is both a private medical issue and a matter before the courts. Elias is accountable only to the constituents of Old Crow, and needs space to get healthy and determine whether he retains the confidence of his constituents moving forward.

The decision to maintain his seat in the House is a decision that is left to the member himself, and should be left as such. The rules that dictate when a member of the legislature is suspended or forced to resign are, funnily enough, set by the legislature itself. The Election Act, the Legislature Assembly Act and the standing orders of the assembly governed by the Speaker of the House set the rules by which candidates may run and when members of the legislature may be removed from the House.

The end result of the above noted legislative structure is that there are very few scenarios that force the removal or suspension of a member from the legislature. In Yukon a member becomes disqualified from sitting in the House if the member ceases to be a permanent resident of Yukon, the member is elected to the House of Commons or appointed to the Senate or if the member is convicted of taking a bribe in exchange for influencing a decision or proceeding of the House. In N.W.T. and Nunavut individuals are precluded from sitting in the House if incarcerated for an indictable offence, a disqualification that does not seem to be present in the Yukon Elections Act or the Legislative Assembly Act.

All this to say that a member of the legislature is left to decide if and when to resign his or her seat. Elias, after meeting with his constituents, is left to decide his own fate. If we wish to set criteria by which elected members must take leave or vacate their seat then the legislative structure should be changed. Until then we must respect that the current rules leaves the decision to Elias and let him determine the next steps.

Further, Elias does not owe anybody the details surrounding his medical issue, be those details present or historical. Elias has admitted that he has a problem, has disclosed that he will seek help and indicated that he will deal with the legal fall-out from the charge whatever that may be. This is a personal issue for Elias and the foregoing is all that is required to be disclosed of an inherently private matter.

It would be doubly inappropriate for the premier to discuss Elias’s issues with the public. Elias is afforded a certain sphere of privacy concerning his personal issues, and it would be a betrayal of same if the premier were to chime in concerning those issues. It is clear that the government has faith in Elias to adequately discharge the duties of his position within caucus, and that support is as far as the government and the premier should comment at this time. Rather than comment further, the appropriate thing for the government and the premier to do is to work with Elias to give him every chance of coming through treatment successfully.

At the end of the day Elias is accountable not to the public at large, nor to the local newspapers, but to the constituents of Old Crow. Elias needs space to consult with his constituents and determine a path forward. If Elias feels he has the confidence of his constituents to continue, then he will continue. At the end of the day it will be the voters of Old Crow, either in consultation with Elias over the next few months or on election day, that decide whether Elias remains in the House.

Alcoholism is a prevalent issue in the Yukon; it spares no profession nor no class of individual. It is important that we recognize that the first step to treating the disease is admitting it exists, and that Elias has taken that first step. At this point let us give him the space he needs to move forward for both himself and his constituency.

Graham Lang is a Whitehorse lawyer and long-time Yukoner.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read