Nunavut premier assigns portfolios to new cabinet

MLAs sworn in to their roles as sixth legislative assembly begins

Nunavut’s new premier and executive council members were officially sworn into their roles by the territory’s commissioner on Friday. Top row right to left: Margaret Nakashuk, David Joanasie, Lorne Kusugak, John Main, David Akeeagok, Adam Lightstone and Joanna Quassa. Bottom row from right to left: P.J. Akeeagok, Eva Aariak and Pamela Gross. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Nunavut’s eight new cabinet ministers have been assigned their portfolios after they were officially sworn in to their roles on Friday.

Surrounded by family members, elders and invited guests, all of the territory’s 22 MLAs took the oaths that officially put them in the positions they got after last month’s election.

Members shared enthusiastic handshakes and hugged their families once things were made official, making the assembly’s chamber livelier than it’s been in over a year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster (right), the MLA for Iqaluit-Sinaa, shared her swearing-in ceremony with her mother Betty Brewster (left). (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

Inuksuk high school’s choir opened the ceremony with O Canada, sung partly in Inuktitut, English and French.

Joanna Quassa, the newly elected MLA for Aggu, led the opening prayer.

Commissioner Eva Aariak presided over the ceremony, calling MLAs forward one by one to take their oaths. Some chose to do it in Inuktitut, and some in English.

Nunavut’s new MLAs were officially sworn in to their roles on Friday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)


After the MLAs were sworn in, the sixth legislative assembly sat for the first time, with the commissioner delivering the opening address.

Every MLA also tabled a petition to get elder care facilities in every Nunavut community on behalf of their constituents who signed.

After the first sitting, P.J. Akeeagok was sworn in as the new premier of Nunavut in a second ceremony Friday evening that began with a qulliq lighting.

Eight cabinet members followed suit and Akeeagok assigned the new ministers their portfolios.

“Each of these members has been selected for their strengths, passion and ability to provide leadership,” Akeeagok said after the ministers were sworn in.

The ministers were assigned the following portfolios:

P.J. Akeeagok:

  • Premier;
  • Minister of Indigenous affairs
  • Minister of immigration
  • Minister of executive and intergovernmental affairs
  • Minister responsible for Utility Rate Review Council

Adam Arreak Lightstone:

  • Minister of finance 
  • Minister of human resources

David Akeeagok: 

  • Minister of environment 
  • Minister of justice
  • Minister responsible for labour

Pamela Gross: 

  • Deputy premier
  • Minister of education
  • Minister responsible for Nunavut Arctic College

Lorne Kusugak:

  • Government house leader
  • Minister of economic development and transportation
  • Minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp.

John Main: 

  • Minister of health
  • Minister responsible for suicide prevention

David Joanasie:

  • Minister responsible for community and government services

Margaret Nakashuk: 

  • Minister of family services
  • Minister responsible for status of women
  • Minister responsible for poverty reduction 
  • Minister responsible for homelessness

Joanna Quassa: 

  • Minister of culture and heritage
  • Minister responsible for Qulliq Energy Corporation
  • Minister responsible for languages
  • Minister responsible for seniors 

“Rest assured we have heard your concerns during this last election,” Akeeagok said, addressing voters.

“We are enthusiastic and will work tirelessly together to build our territory into a place that fosters the aspirations of Nunavummiut and meets our needs.”

Four of the eight members are first-time ministers and the cabinet is made up of five men and three women.

Pamela Gross, the MLA for Cambridge Bay, and Aggu’s Joanna Quassa, are the only first-time members in the cabinet.

Tony Akoak, MLA for Gjoa Haven, will be the Speaker of the legislative assembly.

Gjoa Haven’s MLA Tony Akoak will be the Speaker of the legislative assembly in Nunavut’s sixth legislative assembly. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

The new government will not sit again until the new year.

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(57) Comments:

  1. Posted by Time to grow up on

    “Joanna Quassa, the newly elected MLA for Aggu, led the opening prayer.”

    Can we please stop doing this, the Supreme Court has spoken on this and it is unconstitutional.

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      Really. They don’t let schools do this but the Leg, Hamlet councils, Committees, DEA’s, Public Meetings, etc all over Nunavut, open with a prayer, Go figure.

      • Posted by God bless Nunavut on

        Nunavut needs all the prayers it can get. Our leaders are human, and their prayers represent their humility in recognizing what an incredible task they undertake in making important decisions for the betterment of our territory.

        I pray for them and I ask that God will bless them with the wisdom, discernment and selfless concern that they need as our leaders.

        • Posted by Athiest on

          Their prayers represent magical thinking. I don’t want leaders who believe in magic, but are committed to sound reasoning and the use of good judgement; prayer demonstrates the absence of these.

          • Posted by Silas on

            Dust and ashes we are and to dust and ashes we all return. But the atheist says we were magically formed from dust. It makes me wonder why no humans have seen any mutations from dust into apes and apes into people since recorded history. There is no mutation taking place anymore if we were mutants the mutation should have continued. Why did it stop?
            Prayers are answered everyday for those who truly believe that there is a higher power that we cannot begin to comprehend.

          • Posted by Go Figure on

            Go home and harass your own ppl. Leave us alone if you know better.
            we don’t work with magic wonds!

    • Posted by Grow up ? on

      Only reason they don’t do this in other parts in canada is because of Virtue signaling and PC cancel culture not wanting to offend other culture. FIRST NATIONS AND INUIT were the first cultures in canada and if they want to pray LET THEM PRAY

      • Posted by Amazed & Amused on

        You can be sure that first nations and Inuit were not praying to the Christian god, now look at them defend the thing that colonized them… amazing.

        • Posted by Brainwashed on

          That’s the thing though. How can these brainwashed people comprehend the need for separation of church and state?

          • Posted by Atheist on

            We will probably never convince them, but we don’t need to, we only have to ensure that they are not allowed to impose their rituals on the rest of us, and we can do that by reference to the law.

            Whether it looks like it or not the momentum is on our side. Eventually the people who have disabused themselves of these fantasies will outnumber those who continue to embrace them. It is only a matter of time and our numbers are growing, theirs are declining, thankfully

      • Posted by josywales on

        Yes, for thousands and thousands of years before God was mentioned, the Original Inhabitants of North and South America were living without him in peace and now they are truely lost souls.

    • Posted by Praying lives matter on

      Atheist can sure be intolerant. The prayer lasts a minute or two. Suck it up buttercups. People who pray tolerate atheists all day long. Why not reciprocate, you know, like grown up civilians.

      • Posted by Atheist on

        You’ve missed the point. No one is telling you that you can not pray, that is up to you, pray all you want, but do it privately.

        My question to you is what right do you have to impose your rituals on those of us who don’t believe?

        I say you have no right, and the Supreme Court of Canada agrees.

        • Posted by Praying lives matter on

          Maybe I missed your point, you missed mine by a mile Atheist. My point is to tolerate one another, agree to disagree. Something done in public, in whatever capacity, doesn’t mean imposition of anything. I may not be a practicing Christian, but I respect their devotion, I don’t need to cancel whatever they believe in. If they want to practice what the believe in, in my presence, I will respect their wishes. Creating laws by court precedents isn’t the best way to address any issue.

          • Posted by Secular Humanist on

            You go on and worship and pray, just keep that activity out of our government. They have no place there and a growing number of us are going to keep speaking up until they have finally been removed.

  2. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    Congratulations to all the MLAs

    But, gee guys 2 months’ holiday before the first sitting??
    Must be nice.

    Merry Christmas to you all and the staff at the LA

    • Posted by Brian on

      How much time would you warrant then? Ministers must move to the capital city with family and children. Heartless

      • Posted by GN Housing on

        As a GN employee waiting for housing…I will be angry, upset, disappointed if the new ministers from other communities get housing before any GN employee who have been waiting for years or for those who want to apply for GN that do provide housing but are told there is no GN housing. I will be watching for this and raising holy hell if the out of town Ministers get housing

        • Posted by Northern Guy on

          You had better start raising hell then, because Cabinet Ministers are guaranteed housing because they are required to live in Iqaluit. But don’t worry they get a generous housing bonus so they won’t be moving into GN staff housing

          • Posted by privileged pretend politicians on

            well, the former Minister of Finance Akeeagok has staff housing in Apex doesn’t he?

    • Posted by Pain In The Groen on

      Don’t be so obtuse. You think the only time MLAs and Ministers are working is when they are in session and literally seated at the Legislative Assembly? There’s a lot of work going on right now and you know it. Give your head a shake, man.

  3. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Hope you get down to business soon, 2 month hiatus during a pandemic was
    not good. Lets get all GN Government employees mandatory vaccinated like other Provinces. GN Employees are public servants serving all public and need to not passing on Covid to their clients if not fully vaccinated. We should also be getting on board like other provinces to show proof of full vaccination if going to restaurants , cinema etc. Lets get this Covid beat and get more people vaccinated. Also please sit down with the NEU ASAP and increase their salary and settlement allowance to GN employees, It has been 3 long years and the cost of living is now sky high and getting worse by the week. People are living from paycheck to paycheck.

    • Posted by calm down on

      LOL in your post you want communism, socialism and capitalism all at the same time.

      • Posted by uvanga on

        They are clear in what they want, you don’t have to tag a name for everything, typical!

    • Posted by nope on

      i am getting paid quite handsomely for my position, also be a low one. i agree with ‘calm down’. why do we always have to benchmark ourselves with the provinces, they should be benchmarking themselves to us. 0 covid in nunavut atm. we have more play to restrictions in our communities because we have 0 or near 0 at all times.

      • Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

        Not true we have one in Pond Inlet, can happen again anytime anywhere

        • Posted by ᑐᓄᓂᕐᒥᐅ on

          Was an “out of town” worker.
          Statistically won’t count as Nunavut.

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        0 Covid in the territory that we know of. When was last time there was a comprehensive screening program anywhere in Nunavut? Covid is surging everywhere and if you think that it is done with Nunavut you’re in for a surprise come February.

    • Posted by NH on

      What is your rationale for mandatory vaccination of public servants? I presume it’s only because you see it done in the south and not because you’ve actually given this any critical thought. The vaccinated still contract covid-19 (40% of Ottawa senators are positive for Covid 19 and all are vaccinated). The unvaccinated cannot travel to NU without two weeks isolation while the vaccinated roam freely. Clearly it is the vaccinated that have the higher risk of bringing Covid-19 to the Territory. Also, more importantly, if you truly care about health and wellness you wouldn’t be talking about Covid-19 but instead about mental and/or physical health. Indeed, Rankin Inlet alone has had more suicide deaths in the past 3 months than the entire territory has had deaths from Covid 19 in over 1.5 years. And just look at the stats on other causes of morbidity (cancer, respiratory disease, etc.) and you’d realize you are attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist (relative to other far more pressing health and wellness concerns).

      • Posted by NH on

        Wow, 8 thumbs down to 1 thumb up and not a single comment. Proof that so many run on emotion alone and do not think critically. It’s ok to be vaccinated and still possess the ability to see that a) it’s not working as promised, and b) vaxx mandates don’t make sense in Nunavut, c) they are divisive and discriminatory, and d) people shouldn’t be coerced into taking medical treatments. I sincerely hope the GN does not introduce a vaxx mandate now (with a new Minister of Health), because that would serve as further proof that such decisions are political only and have nothing to do with public health.

        • Posted by Uh-huh on

          Why don’t you tell us the hospitalization, severe illness, and mortality rates that are happening right now for vaccinated versus unvaccinated and then get back to us, hmmm?

          • Posted by NH on

            You’re watching too much TV. The vaccines have not worked to stop this whatsoever. More vaccinated then ever. More cases than ever.

  4. Posted by So much for Change on

    It’s pretty safe to say we were all expecting a sweeping change with the crowning of PJ as premier. 2 days in and he’s already set his cabinet up to fail.
    After he’s done with the deputy minister shuffle, we’ll see how hard this government falls from what seemed to be a great change and a step in the right direction.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Yes, reality has a brutal way of tamping down everyone’s expectations. Time will tell but I agree that this Legislative Assembly has selected a Cabinet that is doomed to fail. It is long on inexperience and incompetence and short on anything else. I predict that we will see wholesale changes well in advance of the planned leadership review.

    • Posted by Same Old Sheet on

      Any hope that PJ Akeaagok would usher in change was dashed during the Leadership Forum when he, Adam Lightstone and John Main schemed their way to the top by strong arming 10 new MLAs to run for Cabinet, just so they could split the vote enough to ensure “their guys” got voted in. Now that PJ has brought back tired old Joe Kunuk into his office, it’s Quassa’s premiership all over again – doomed to fail. I don’t even wish them good luck because I don’t think their shady tactics deserve it.

  5. Posted by Anguttialook on

    Well it’s nice to see clarity as transportation minister first congratulations to Lorne you have to deal with something your predecessor david akeeagok only have started…about the dysfunctional m/v headquarters that in complete disarray…the director &her 2 prodigy are no longer there…yet thier unofficial polices are still carried on forward by the iqaluit office….I hope you can put an end to the stonewalling and lackadaisical snails pace movement of your inherited experienced gn staff.
    Heads up….you will be hearing from me once to right the wrongs…so Mr minister kusugak the onus is on you now…its only a few minutes ago I found out about cabinet……are you part of the on going problem @m/v or are you part of the solution…time will tell……an elders life is being dictated by people that are no longer @m/v headquarters…..that is wrong….so I ask of you to right that illegal and immoral wrong….you have your hands full…a good cleanup is needed at m/v that your predecessor d akeeagok only partially
    Completed…… can only hope…like you new enthusiastic premier the chosen one …I think the young man will do better than his predecessor Joe.. who I say….chow

    • Posted by Drivers Lament on

      I am told the Motor Vehicle computer system is no longer working. Nunavummiut cannot get a drivers licence. If you have a drivers license and it expires, you cannot renew it.

    • Posted by S on

      Thanks for your comment, Anguttialook. I get that you have an agenda with MV, but you must know that your comments could apply to any department or office at GN – or to any related agency, including NAC and NHC; with QEC maybe, excepted a bit.

      Top to bottom (and bottom to top also), every department and agency of GN is loaded with deadwood, dead policies, and dead products. The few who struggle to float, bloom, and produce in that morass are suffocated or tossed away.

      That morass has just produced a new legislature. It’s producing the leaders in hamlets, regions, and NTI. Those who get out of the territory, briefly, often attend NS – receiving sub-zero professional or technical training, but an abundance of indoctrination in anti-Inuit ways.

      • Posted by Northern Sadness on

        Amazing. You’ve managed to type a whole lot without actually saying anything of real substance. What is your basis for what you said above?

  6. Posted by Confident on

    Mid term review of cabinet should be in place for 6th government, accountability and performance review must be measured within a time line of two years from today.
    Nowadays Public needs assurances to make sure cabinet ministers are doing their duty and execute the interest of Nunavutmiut.

  7. Posted by Samuel Browne on

    What date does the legislative assembly reconvene…I want to wish happy new year to minister David akeeagok and minister Lorne kusugak…in advance..print this please.why has this media got me blocked…un free press…no

  8. Posted by Truestory on

    Do something that benefits Nunavummiut. People voted for you because they believe in you (I don’t). Remember Nunavut’s economy could prosper if you care about the economy, and the workers’ at Mary River Nunavut, and other workers in different fields in Nunavut.

  9. Posted by Will I Am on

    George should have been a minister not this Light Stone kid. Gimme a break. They gave him two or three portfolios? George could have handled four portfolios and solved the water crisis with one arm tied behind his back.

    • Posted by Colin on

      There’s a lot of people that travel or move to Nunavut from outside each year.

    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      I believe that with each Ministerial position comes an additional allowance??

      I do not understand the need for an Immigration Minister either. Immigration is not a territorial responsibility

    • Posted by Mataka on

      Every province and territory has that portfolio. Why? May be check with the Federal Department or better still google it. Could also be hidden somewhere in the Canadian Constitution. But for the fun of it, it is for just in case someone sneaks in from Greenland or worse from The Northwest Territories.

      • Posted by KM on

        Under section 95 of the Constitution Act of 1867, “In each Province the Legislature may make Laws in relation to Agriculture in the Province, and to Immigration into the Province;”

        Nunavut is given some province-like responsibilities in the Nunavut Act, and Section 95 is specifically cited. There’s obviously no need at present for a Minister of Agriculture, given there’s no significant agriculture, but people do come here so immigration is theoretically necessary.

  10. Posted by Jobie Weetaluktuk on

    If you ever watch TV events or new, praying is often allowed.
    First Nations do it all the time.
    Even shrines for victims are a form of prayer. Messages to the invisible.

    • Posted by Life in a pluralistic society on

      Sure, no one doubts or is necessarily concerned about that. The issue is whether Christian ritual should be an informal part of government ritual. In the past this was taken for granted, but as our society becomes more diverse and pluralistic many people have said ‘no more.’ The goal is not to “cancel” or put an end to personal beliefs, but to keep them out of the political sphere. They really do not belong there and I believe most people (not all of course) know that at some level, even if they are practitioners.

      • Posted by Shoe on the other foot on

        By keeping prayer out of public government, it is simply permitting complete secularism of government. Why should it submit to atheism tendancies? I don’t advocate for a theocracy but I’ll note purely secular governments are responsible for more deaths in the last hundred years than all religious governments in history. It is my right to religious belief under the Constitution. If I say a prayer and fellow officials don’t partake, what is it to me? Yet if I don’t partake in their secularism it is a problem to the atheist. How about vote me out like in a democracy if you don’t like it? The nonsense of arrogance posted above about how religious people are not rational shows that we are dealing with some very uncritical thinkers, people who picked up a Richard Dawkins book and think the lowest accessible levels of militant atheism holds water in philosophy or scholarly debate.

        • Posted by Praying lives matter on

          Nailed it! Like I said, atheists are an intolerant bunch.

        • Posted by Paradigm Shift on

          This is a classic comment. A fundamental error in reasoning among Christian apologists (and there are many) is to mistake secularism or atheism with a particular ideology or body of thought. To say, “purely secular governments are responsible for more deaths in the last hundred years than all religious governments in history” (I’d be curious to see this statement quantified by the way, can you do that?) is to make distortions based around this misconception. ‘Secularism’ or ‘Atheism’ did not animate the ideologies the 20th century. If anything, this can be understood through the confluence of tribalism and industrialism, the former having deep roots in our evolutionary past.
          Either way, these arguments, though interesting, seem to distract from the main point.
          In our context to be ‘secular’ is to discontinue the practice of privileging Christian mythology in our politics. More broadly it is to recognize that there is no good reason to incorporate any kind of mysticism into our politics, and to even acknowledge the liabilities this might bring.

          How so?

          Perhaps Atheist is the more accurate term here, it is to acknowledge that rituals grounded in fantasy only serve to contaminate our ability to know what is or isn’t true; which is to say our epistemology.

          When you say I believe Christians are irrational you are correct. Not only are they irrational, but they celebrate irrationality and hold it up as a virtue, as if they will be rewarded for accepting unjustified beliefs lacking all evidence. While this may have served a purpose in our pre-scientific age, it is a liability in our modern world. Thankfully more people are coming to this realization than rejecting it. Time is on our side.


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