Nunavut MLAs ask for changes requiring future MLA candidates to disclose criminal records

“Voters have the right to have all the information necessary to make an informed decision”

Inspired by similar legislation passed in Manitoba last year, Adam Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak, introduced a motion on Sept. 29 calling for changes to the Nunavut Elections Act that would require future MLA candidates to disclose their criminal records. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Dustin Patar

Members of Nunavut’s legislative assembly passed a motion on the final day of their September sitting calling for changes to the territory’s Elections Act that would require future MLA candidates to disclose their criminal records.

The motion, introduced by Adam Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak, calls on the Management and Services Board and the office of the chief electoral officer to consider options for how to implement this.

“The intent is not to prohibit anyone from running in a general election,” said Lightstone.

“I just think that voters have the right to have all the information necessary to make an informed decision.”

In his opening remarks, Lightstone said his interest in the subject was sparked when Manitoba passed a similar bill in the spring of 2019, the only jurisdiction in Canada to do so.

He also noted that Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Kivalliq Inuit Association and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association all have eligibility requirements, something NTI implemented in 2014.

Earlier that afternoon, Lightstone had asked Dustin Fredlund, Nunavut’s chief electoral officer, who was on hand to answer questions regarding the report on the conduct of the fifth general election, if he knew whether Manitoba had had any difficulties in implementing their legislation.

“I believe that they had no issues,” said Fredlund, who stated he has a good working relationship with Elections Manitoba.

“It’s not a criminal records check, it’s just a self-declaration. So administratively, no problems.”

Lightstone also asked how difficult it would be to implement in Nunavut, Fredlund replied by saying that it wouldn’t be difficult.

When Lightstone addressed his fellow MLAs, he made it clear that the motion wasn’t an automatic amendment to the Nunavut Elections Act, nor would it mean that someone with a criminal record would be disqualified from seeking office.

Instead, he suggested potential options such as the disclosure of only serious violations or limiting the timeframe based on when the violations occurred.

“If someone has a criminal record and they’re the right person for this job, then their community will elect them,” said Lightstone.

“I think that having a criminal record disclosure would just increase the integrity and public confidence in this assembly.”

The motion was met with little resistance and was passed.

Nunavut’s next territorial election will be held in 2021 and will feature a few other changes such as the potential for online voter registration and a new electronic poll book system, which would replace the existing physical books that list voters.

“Currently, when you walk in to vote, you will see two tables that say A to K and L to Zed, or three tables broken down by last name,” said Fredlund.

“This new technology will allow the voters to walk in and vote at any table.”

Not only does Fredlund anticipate that this will create a smoother and easier voting process but the technology will also allow Elections Nunavut and candidates running in the election to track each poll and each constituency live.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    A positive step, however, I would go one step further and prevent anyone with a criminal record not be allowed to run until they have a minimum period of five years without further trouble. I would also permanently ban anyone listed on the sexual offender’s list.
    These members represent all of Nunavut once elected and I am not interested in a community having sole discretion of putting one of these offenders on the LA and making decisions on my behalf.

  2. Posted by DIsgruntled on

    This is a very good idea. Nunavummiut deserve the right to know who we’re actually voting for.

  3. Posted by Disappointed on

    On the surface this seems like a decent idea, but this will ultimately hurt poorer inuit, who are more likely to have a criminal record. They’ll either get less votes because many voters will simply label them as criminals or they won’t run at all for fear that their past mistakes will become the focal point of an election. This will benefit candidates with squeaky clean records, and make politics in Nunavut more elistist than it actually is.
    As a voter I’d be curious to know which candidates have a record, but ultimately why would it matter if a candidate had a charge when they were younger? If they have a serious recent charge I think that would be relevant.
    I’m not sure where Lightstone is going with this. One day he’s pushing a very progressive agenda, then next he’s poaching tough-on-crime laws from prairie provinces.

    • Posted by UNGAVA on

      VERY TRUE !!!!

      • Posted by Wrong on

        You cannot work for the GN with a criminal record but your are allowed to run it. We should know if someone has a criminal record and what for. A charge of vandalism when they were 18 compared to a charge of fraud or rape are two different stories.

    • Posted by Name withheld on

      I totally agree with Lightstone as anyone in Nunavut should know you can apply for pardon and have your record cleared after 5 years.

      I wouldn’t want anyone to run a public seat and have a say if one were to have criminal record of any kind.

      I’m sure a lot more would run, after all not everyone has criminal record

      • Posted by Disappointed on

        And receiving a pardon is a lengthy process which requires time, money and solid command of English or French, which many Inuit living near the poverty line don’t have.
        Grouping people into categories (no criminal record = good / criminal record = bad) is shortsighted and damging in a territory where the gap between the haves and havenots keeps getting wider. There are people with criminal records who have learned from their mistakes and have good intentions, while there are people with squeaky clean records who are despicable human beings. In a vacuum, Lightstone’s proposal makes sense if everyone is on the same level playing field. But wealthy educated Nunavumiut wanting to become MLAs already have a tremendous advantage over those that aren’t. Making criminal records the focal point of an election race is just a way to remind “certain types” that you aren’t meant to be here and shouldn’t waste your time.

  4. Posted by Do more on

    This is a start. I’d like to see this happening with other levels of government in the territory too. Mayors and hamlet councillors.
    And DEAs: love having people convicted of drug dealing, assault, sexual assault & child abuse as members the DEA. These people should be banned from running outright. Makes my skin crawl when these people are in our schools. The majority don’t care about education and are only in it for the honorarium.

  5. Posted by Jane Smith on

    Some don’t seem to have criminal records because some spouses have been too scared to lay charges over some years. Some that are elected now are big time hypocrites. Critical of others except themselves.

  6. Posted by Sulijuq on

    way to go adam. hardest working MLA.
    the silence from some of the other MLAs is loud.

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