Lightstone resigns from cabinet, denies ‘scandal’

Legislative assembly unanimously accepts integrity commissioner’s report

Adam Arreak Lightstone resigned from cabinet Wednesday just before his colleagues in Nunavut’s legislative assembly voted to accept the integrity commissioner’s report into a conflict of interest. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier

Adam Arreak Lightstone resigned from the legislative assembly’s executive council Wednesday, just before his colleagues unanimously voted to accept a report from the territory’s integrity commissioner that found he had been responsible for a conflict of interest late last year.

Integrity commissioner Katherine Peterson determined there was a conflict of interest in March after Lightstone’s wife, Hilary Burns, was appointed for a short time as an acting deputy minister in one of the departments under his portfolio.

For about five days last December, Burns — who was director of employee relations and job evaluation in the Department of Human Resources — held the department’s second-highest position. 

Because Lightstone was not the one to suggest she get the position, and because he showed concerns about the situation, Peterson recommended Lightstone be reprimanded by the legislative assembly and that he publicly acknowledge his conduct.

A GN news release following Peterson’s report said Lightstone was “stepping aside” from his cabinet roles, where he was minister responsible for both human resources and finance, before ultimately offering his resignation in the legislature Wednesday.

“I am resigning from executive council, effective immediately,” Lightstone said in a speech to the legislature, adding he would continue serving as the MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak.

In his 15-minute speech to the legislature, Lightstone denied being involved in a scandal, but admitted to creating the perception of a conflict of interest. He also apologized to his colleagues and thanked Peterson for conducting a full investigation.

“The fact of the matter is, I did not behave in an unethical fashion,” he said. “I do accept that it was a mistake that I made and one that I fully accept the consequences for.”

Lightstone also used his speech to defend his wife. Without naming anyone, he called out members of the legislature over what he described as a “shameful attack” on her reputation as a public servant.

“After all she has done for our government, members of this legislature have brought her into the public arena and questioned her integrity, as well as mine, in an attempt to discredit me,” he said. 

After concluding his remarks, the legislature voted unanimously to adopt the findings of the report before going into a recess.

“It’s the integrity of this assembly that we work in, when policies are clearly broken there’s accountability to it,” said Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes after proceedings wrapped up.

Hickes, along with Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq, addressed the conflict of interest issue in the legislature on March 7 during question period.

Following the decision on Lightstone’s reprimand, the MLAs turned their attention to picking his replacement as a cabinet minister.

Simailak described it as “very surreal” to have been selected to join cabinet. He called it a privilege to have served as a regular MLA, and vowed to apply what he learned in that role to his new jobs in cabinet.

“Nunavut is spread out but quite small,” he said, adding he looked forward to making life better for all Nunavummiut.

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly reflect when Adam Arreak Lightstone resigned. It’s also been updated to state that MLA Craig Simailak was voted into cabinet. His portfolios have not been assigned yet.

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(36) Comments:

  1. Posted by Making a Difference on

    So far as I’ve seen Adam is one of the few elected officials to actually try and improve Nunavut. He stands up to the crap that other officials put out.
    Nunavut needs him.

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    • Posted by getout! on

      No they dont..if he puts himself into that position who knows what else he’s capable of being sneaky at. Should resign as MLA as well..

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      • Posted by Taimaajjaaq on

        Sneaky? What my question is…how did Hicks and Savikataaq know all about what’s going on behind office doors? When you become MLA, you know all inside information? Hmmm!…..

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      • Posted by NTI Opposition on

        What a Gong Show!

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        • Posted by Voter on

          What is not understandable is why the integrity commissioner did not identify the DM of HR as being part of this issue or perhaps the main reason (not the MLA/Min).
          The MLA/Min and his wife should have both known it was wrong but first the DM of HR. Why was the DM not part of the recommendations of wrong doing?

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      • Posted by Monica A. Connolly on

        To “Getout!”:
        Nobody – especially not the Ethics Commissioner – has presented any evidence that Mr. Lightstone did anything in a “sneaky” manner. He made a mistake in accepting advice from experienced civil servants instead of contacting the Ethics Commissioner before making his decision, which was corrected in a very few days. Beyond the recommendations of the Ethics Commissioner – a reprimand and acknowledgement of his error – the only further action required was, perhaps, a directive from the premier to all ministers and MLAs to check with the Ethics Commissioner if they have any doubts whatever about a course of action.

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      What Nunavut doesn’t need are greenhorn Ministers who are incapable of seeing a clear conflict of interest when it is staring him in the face. I am sure that no malfeasance was intended but it does show a shocking lack of judgment and experience on Mr. Lightstone’s part.

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  2. Posted by Seriously, Who is editing? on

    Nunatsiaq needs to do a better job following and reporting on the Legislative Assembly. Adam resigned before the motion was voted on, as he was speaking to the motion, not after the vote (as the story currently states as of 11:30).

    Additionally, Minister Simailak doesn’t “take over the vacated portfolios,” he just becomes a Minister. The premier determines portfolios and will assign them in a shuffle.

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    • Posted by They live in Ottawa on

      Don’t be so hard on our local journalists, most of them don’t even live here so how would know all this?

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  3. Posted by Public Arena on

    “members of this legislature have brought her into the public arena and questioned her integrity, as well as mine, in an attempt to discredit me”.

    When Lightstone accepted the portfolio knowing his wife was a Director this was the first time he brought his wife into the public arena. Then when he approved and she accepted the acting assignment they both brought this into the public arena… Don’t try and blame George and Joe for this one, you both knew better. Should have told the DM they could not go on vacation due to operational requirements like they have done to many other GN staff in lesser roles before!

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    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      Adam wants to attribute the consequences of his own incompetence to the malice of others.

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  4. Posted by still here on

    1 conflict of interest should have been identified directly by the mla’s wife if she was that experienced as she was with human resources
    2 does anyone think the politicians up here have never created a nepotistic problem or issue? lets all think of who the politicians are.
    3 kind of a complete waste of time, work together to actually do what is needed for the north, that why you go the votes to be there. Sometimes being an adult might be a better thing for the mlas to be doing

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    • Posted by Karboneater on

      How to be a politician “101” .. Understand fully what your signing a document for and for what purpose.
      Don’t blame others for painting yourself into a corner.
      Don’t lie or mislead others.
      Don’t grow thick skin: your out of touch with reality if you do.
      Don’t whimper: be an adult.
      Be humble, honest and caring. If you can’t understand any of those attributes, go fishing by yourself for a really long time.

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  5. Posted by Disappointed on

    Really disappointed in his sorry-not-sorry apology. He could have taken the high road but he seems angry and not dealing with the adversity very well.

    I didn’t think his removal of cabinet was necessary….until I heard him speak. He doesn’t get it.

    He thinks people are mad at him when in reality we’re mad at the situation that allowed nepotism to happen. He could have stopped this situation from happening, but so could have PJ, the director and the ADM. George and Joe probably could have handled a little better too. But I 100% disagree with Lightstone that this shouldn’t have been made public–it absolutely should have. Otherwise this would have been swept under the rug, like most things during full caucus meetings, and no one would have learned anything from it.

    Friggen rookies.

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  6. Posted by Lol what about PJ on

    So the premier is off the hook for his roll? Why is the old DM who made the suggestion back also? Why is only one head rolling? Will that remote work policy ever see the light of day lol

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  7. Posted by Ian on

    Toxic,Toxic,watch the behind the scenes backstabbing,by joe and George,and now Adam,thats our NU,Gov,trying to move forward for us.

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  8. Posted by Observer on

    If this happened with HR senior staff being involved as advisors. There must be a lot of nepotism happening across the board in the Nunavut Government. The HR department should not be trusted after this incident. It’s seemed to have been a normal practice. The DM needs to go including the AdM.

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    • Posted by Double Standard on

      It would appear that Human Resources Policies might apply to all Departments, except HR. One must question how these senior staff were able to get away with this stuff for so long. It is about time it is exposed and the fact that they were feeling so comfortable to put the spouse of a Minister as an acting DM role might give some good insight to what is really going on behind the scenes in that Department.

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  9. Posted by Tasilummiuq on

    I bet you all these negative comments and responses are by HIcks, he will work for Nuntaqsiaq News as full time job if he could. He hates Lightstone and wants him out of the picture. That’s all he ever does, when will people realize that Hicks aturnilutuinnaqtuq he’s very sneaking and cunning!

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    • Posted by Silly Willy on

      That’s enough crying and blaming, Adam… time to move on

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  10. Posted by Lame on

    Lame! Nunavut has bigger issues to deal with, these politicians are just playing games, who they can take out and all…Let’s get to the real issues here! Lightstone has done nothing wrong! Hicks and Savikataaq have hired and contracted family members and nothing was ever done! petty politics! True colours are showing!

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  11. Posted by blame it on the reign on

    well Adam. got what is sorry to say a lesson. But the people who actually set this in play. need to be. fired .Joe you and George are scum. you both have. shown Nunavut. more then once your dirty way . And now. you. secured. the claim to fame as. sore losers. And. the people will remember and so will other MLAs

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  12. Posted by Scandal on

    the scandal not being spoken about is the proposed NEU contract.
    .
    0% increase in year 1
    1% increase in year 2
    1.5% increase in year 3
    1.5% increase in year 4
    1.5% increase in year 5
    3.5% increase in year 6
    .
    These details, and more, are available on the NEU website.
    .
    The proposed increase is way less than inflation. GN employees have patiently waited for the “big boys and girls” to sort things out. We have kept the government functioning, as best we are allowed to. And this is how the Union and Management say “thank you”.
    .
    On a positive note, ratification of this collective agreement will do a lot to meet Inuit Employment Plan objectives, because most GN employees who can leave Nunavut will do so shortly after they receive their retroactive pay for the past three and a half years.
    .
    All those experienced Inuit accountants, teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, social workers, project managers and lawyers who are just waiting for a GN job to open up will finally be able to get a job in Nunavut.

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    • Posted by Keep pace with Facebook & Amazon web surfing on

      I think this a gracious increase scale considering most GN employees enjoy 45min coffee breaks and spend a good 3 hours a day surfing amazon and facebook.

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      • Posted by on the hour on

        don’t forget the hourly 10-15 min smoke breaks! love heading home to put supper in the oven during afternoon coffee too!

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      • Posted by Agree but… on

        This is a management issue, not an employee problem, that people can finish their work and meet needs and have time to do something else. It stems from politicians ultimately who are responsible for this.
        .
        Saying that employees should essentially TAKE A PAY CUT from 2018 to 2024 because MANAGEMENT can’t get its act together makes no sense. People in Nunavut don’t understand that people can move more easily than ever since every government, every job, and every employer needs people. My field went from very difficult to get a call back on a job ad to name my pay and schedule. With this GN-NEU blunder for proper pay to live in the most expensive place in Canada (wait til real inflation hits here, we’ve been sheltered in fuel and covid nutrition north) I am already to go as soon as I get my retro increase. Also thanks to the GN for the relocation-out pay also, although like wages it hasn’t been updated since 2002.

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  13. Posted by Binky the Doormat on

    It’ not difficult to see why Adam would be so bitter and in denial about this. For years he has beat the drum on what he called “equity” issues in GN staff housing, and alas luck shone and he found himself in cabinet and at the head of HR. What a victory for the young crusader… but his lack of experience, his carelessness and maybe even a little hubris brought it all to an end. It seems unlikely he will ever have such an opportunity to implement his ‘vision’ (whatever that is exactly) again.

    That said, I never cared for his sanctimonious posturing on the issue, void of thoughtfulness, reflection or substance as it typically was. His ouster from cabinet, as I see it, is a net positive for Nunavut.

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    • Posted by No Moniker on

      In a way Adam was the perfect totem for youthfulness and idealism, the underside of which being inexperience, naiveite, and poor judgement. He captured it all. I am relieved to see him go.

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  14. Posted by Truestory on

    Soap Opera politics in Nunavut.

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  15. Posted by kiatch on

    HB got her karma unfortunately her hubby paid for it. You cannot be in positions at that level without knowing the policies. Policies that EXIST! 😂

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  16. Posted by Pave the plateau on

    This is just another poor decision by Adam. Just the optics of putting your wife acting at the head of a department you’re responsible for is terrible despite the alternate reporting structure. I agree, due to operational requirements you can deny leave. This was a perfect reason to deny the DM’s leave and save yourself from this situation. This poor decision reminds me of his opposition to the Homebuyer Matched-savings Program that would have benefited a lot of his constituents and the rest of Nunavut. However he led the killing of that program. Now that you’re a regular MLA please do what a lot of constituents want and get funding for the city to pave the plateau!

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  17. Posted by Name Withheld on

    All you people against Savikataaq and Hickes. Get it in your head that this was downright CONFLICT of INTEREST!!

    If Adam wasn’t sure he could have requested more information about it prior to it happening.

    HR DM should be held accountable and removed!! No one has had it lucky aside from her to be holding he seat that long when there is soo much nepotism within the GN!! Nepotism and Narcissism in Management 🙄🙄🙄

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  18. Posted by Chin Up on

    Chin up young blood.

    This was a stumble – not the end of the race.

    Gimme a shout, we’ll sort this out.

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  19. Posted by Emmellay on

    While I agree this was bad judgment on the part of Adam and he and DMs involved should have looked for another option, there are comments here that are exaggerated. He has been a good MLA, raising sensitive and important questions in a professional and well informed manner, and I think we need more of this type of MLA rather than politicians who help out their friends and local elites, even if I know this is how the world works. I get the sense that he really cares about addressing issues that are important to Nunavummiut instead of being someone who rubber stamps what is fed to him. I hope he will continue in his path after learning a lesson from a poor decision. We all make mistakes, some are caught before any impact, as here, and lessons can be learned from them, and some are not caught that are more sneakily or subtly impacting society.

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  20. Posted by Jolene Arreak on

    It’s not right and it is a little sad that Adam, who has done nothing wrong within the European law, nor the Inuit law for the people he gave his life for, to be treating him the way he is being treated right now. This is not right.

    He gives everything he has for all of us and it’s in his rightful way to help us. There are not many like him. He was raised well and he would do anything to help you. Even when he has to help his big sister.

    My name is Jolene Susanna Quviq Arreak and I am Adam’s big sister and he does everything for me as well. Let’s help each other.
    I appreciate everything he does for the people he loves…Us Inuit, Inukuluujugut. ❤️
    Nagligiikta.

  21. Posted by Jolene on

    I won’t hide behind false names and won’t say false things about people I don’t know. I also don’t understand why we can’t all work together. We have to guide the next generation.

    Adam Arreak-Lightstone has many family from all around the Arctic, the circumpolar world, and beyond. Which is one of the many reasons I don’t work for any Government. I’m also confident that there is no nepotism or favouritism going around in his name. He’s just trying to help. His wife is just trying to help too. We’re all just trying to help.

    If you’d like to help make a difference for OUR NUNAVUT…Go run for the elections. It takes a lot of energy and work. It takes so much of your life. We need more people like you. Make your words become actions. Help try to make a difference. We really need you. Let’s work together as our Ancestors asked us to

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