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Integrity commissioner dismisses Thompson complaint about Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby and Shane Thompson, second and third from right respectively, as members of Caroline Cochrane's initial cabinet in 2019. Photo: GNWT
Katrina Nokleby and Shane Thompson, second and third from right respectively, as members of Caroline Cochrane's initial cabinet in 2019. Photo: GNWT

A complaint filed by an NWT minister about an MLA’s social media posts and emails has been dismissed by the territory’s integrity commissioner, though not without criticism of the MLA concerned.

The complaint, made by environment and communities minister Shane Thompson in June, alleged in part that emails and Facebook posts by Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby “demonstrate a pattern of behaviour which demeans, belittles and causes personal embarrassment to myself as well as staff in the departments I am responsible for.”

Thompson also accused Nokleby of a “pattern of spreading rumours.”

According to integrity commissioner David Phillip Jones QC’s decision, the emails and posts in question – which weren’t included in the public copy of the decision, but were referred to in general terms – cover the topics of sole-source contracts, 2022’s Fort Smith active shooter incident, Łútsël K’é caribou harvesting, the marking of documents as “confidential,” hunting tags, a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Red Cross, among others.

Thompson wrote that he did not expressly wish to trigger an inquiry but wanted “the views and recommendations” of the integrity commissioner on what the minister said was “inappropriate conduct and harassment.”



“More recently, there has been an effort to challenge the more egregious communication. However, that approach has usually resulted in additional backlash,” Thompson stated in his complaint, filed without being made public at the time but quoted by Jones on Friday.

“There is also concern over the volatility of the MLA, and the likelihood of a positive outcome in raising points of order because of the retaliatory nature of responses,” Thompson wrote.

Jones, however, ruled that most of Nokleby’s remarks – both in private emails and public Facebook posts – constituted “political rhetoric.” While some remarks did cross a line into harassment, Jones said, there were insufficient grounds for an inquiry and holding one so close to an election would not serve the public interest. He concluded that Nokleby had, by and large, committed errors of judgment “made in good faith.”

“I fully understand why Mr Thompson is irked by the content and tone of Ms Nokleby’s criticisms, and appreciate his attempts to find ways to respond to her concerns,” Jones wrote in his decision.



“On the other hand, while in my judgment not all of Ms Nokleby’s communications cross the line from acceptable political rhetoric so as to constitute harassment, I agree with her recognition that there can be legitimate criticisms of some of her communications, and that she needs to continue to work on her ‘direct and to-the-point manner’ of communicating and carefully consider in advance the effect of her choice of words and tone.”

If Thompson and Nokleby are each re-elected, Jones added, “I would encourage them to voluntarily enter a form of mediation to mend their relationship so that each may serve their constituents and all the people of the NWT to the best of their abilities.”

Nokleby, responding to Jones regarding Thompson’s complaint, had written: “My comments … often reflect my frustration with persistent, recurring issues and with the slow pace of change, particularly in light of the crises faced by individuals and communities across the territory.

“I understand that Minister Thompson takes a different view of my communications with him and social media posts. However, at no point has Minister Thompson come to my office, called me or approached me in person to discuss any of these issues. This is despite the fact that we work in the same building, down the hall from one another.

“Instead, Minister Thompson has chosen to stockpile records of my communications and build a complaint on evidence dating back nearly three years – three quarters of the life of this Assembly – in support of a complaint against me. I have difficulty believing that this is anything but an improper attempt to embarrass and silence me.”

More: Read the integrity commissioner’s full report

Nokleby was formerly a minister in the same cabinet as Thompson but was removed in 2020, in a 16-to-one vote, over a “failure to manage her office.”

Premier Caroline Cochrane at the time described Nokleby as “yelling, angry, and using vulgar language” on occasion, adding her conduct had been “extremely inappropriate.” Nokleby said she had been unfairly targeted and victimized in a “toxic culture.”



The territorial election is set to take place in November.

Jones suggested he hoped the next set of 19 MLAs could “set a different tone” than the incumbents, noting the string of disagreements, removals from positions and other less-than-dignified moments witnessed in the past four years. (In February, Nokleby had asked Thompson to apologize for “derogatory and offensive” comments in the legislature as the two exchanged frank views.)

Jones suggested a workshop on “appropriate behaviour and communication skills” wouldn’t be the worst idea for the 19 incoming MLAs.

“Particular focus should be given to the use of social media,” he concluded, “which by its nature is prone to the quick quip and cutting comment, rather than thoughtful analysis based upon actual facts.”