Gayla Thunstrom elected president of Union of Northern Workers

Last modified: October 18, 2021 at 11:41am


Gayla Thunstrom is the new president of the Union of Northern Workers, taking over from outgoing leader Todd Parsons following the weekend’s union convention.

Parsons, who led the UNW for six terms spanning almost 20 years, steps down from the role after choosing not to seek re-election.


Thunstrom represents continuity for the union having served on the UNW’s leadership team, alongside Parsons, as its first vice-president since 2005. On its website, the union said Thunstrom came to the NWT in 1988 as a nurse at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

The union did not state whether Thunstrom had been opposed. NNSL reported Thunstrom defeated Josée-Anne Spirito by 40 votes to 28. Two delegates subsequently confirmed Spirito’s unsuccessful challenge.

The union did not publicize a full slate of candidates, announcing only the newly elected executive members.

“Convention proceedings are not public,” said Adrienne Cartwright, a union spokesperson, by email.

Union delegates at the convention are understood to have defeated a motion to create a position of past president that Parsons would have filled.


The new UNW first vice-president is Melvin Larocque. The new second vice-president is Spirito.

Spirito has served on the union’s executive since 2017 as regional vice-president for Somba K’e and Larocque since 2018 as equity vice-president.

The union has seven regional vice-president positions, three of which are currently filled: Dennis Nelner in the Dehcho, Lauraine Armstrong in Fort Smith, and Ray Levesque in Hay River.

The UNW said elections are in progress in the Beaufort Delta and North Great Slave regions and an election will soon be run for the Somba K’e position. A regional vice-presidency in the Kimberlite region also exists but is vacant.


Similarly, an election will be held to fill the vacant equity vice-president position.

The last UNW convention was held in 2017. While conventions are ordinarily held every three years, the 2020 convention was delayed by a year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cartwright confirmed elected executive members will now serve two-year terms to return the UNW to its usual schedule in 2023.

“The new executive looks forward to serving and working with members over the next two years,” the union’s statement concluded.