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Integrity Act changes pass
Senior government officials must take complaints to cabinet, not integrity commissioner

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 20, 2013

Territorial cabinet will now be the gatekeepers for Integrity Act violation allegations against MLAs and ministers.

Amendments to the Integrity Act now prevent senior government officials from making a request to the Integrity Commissioner to initiate an investigation into the conduct of an MLA.

Members of the legislative assembly gave Bill 67, which contains amendments to the act, all three readings during the afternoon of May 9.

House speaker Hunter Tootoo, in his opening comment, said the close working relationship between the most seniors members of the public service and MLAs factored in the creation of the bill.

"It is appropriate that such officials not be placed in a position where they may have to submit such requests," he said.

He said that officials were free to voice their concerns to the appropriate minister or the premier, in the event of a potential violation of the act.

Integrity commissioner Norman Pickell, who released his annual report on April 18 only to have it tabled the day after the act was amended, said in some jurisdictions only an elected MLA can ask the integrity commissioner to review of an alleged breach.

"But, barring certain requirements of confidentiality, Bill 67 does not prevent a senior government official from going to any MLA, disclosing the facts to that MLA and asking that MLA to make a request to the integrity commissioner for a review of an MLA's conduct," he said in an e-mail, referring to present house Speaker Tootoo who proceeded in that manner in the Paul Okalik review.

Tootoo asked the commissioner to review Okalik's conduct during the 2008 territorial election campaign.

"The role of the MLAs is to decide what they want the Integrity Act to say," Pickell said. "The role of the integrity commissioner is to apply what the Integrity Act says to situations as they arise."

Until May 9, anyone inside or outside Nunavut could ask for a review of an MLA. In his annual report, Pickell said he agreed with that approach.

"Sometimes the only person who knows that a member may have breached the Integrity Act is someone within a department," he wrote.

As long as members behave within the confines of the act, they have nothing to worry about, he stated.

The Integrity Act, which came into force in 2001, was created to hold members of the legislative assembly accountable for their behaviour and actions if found in breach of their traditional Nunavummiut values and democratic ideals.

Last year it was used to convict South Baffin MLA Fred Schell of six Integrity Act violations, including attempting to use his power as minister to settle personal grudges and lying under oath. These complaints were brought to Pickell by a senior government official. If the amendments made last week were in place then, those complaints would have been vetted by a cabinet minister before being brought to the integrity commissioner.

Tootoo, Nunavut information and privacy commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts and Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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