Gender parity backers plan campaign strategy

The people who support the Nunavut Implementation Commission’s gender parity plan got some high-profile endorsements this week at a conference on the Future of Work in Nunavut.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

TODD PHILLIPS

Backers of a proposal to ensure Nunavut’s legislature will be filled with as many men as women met this week in Iqaluit.

They are working on a strategy to convince Nunavut’s voters to say Yes in a plebiscite on the issue expected to be held in May.

The Yes campaign also got some help with some endorsements from prominent northern leaders during the NIC-sponsored Future of Work conference this week.

Although gender parity didn’t appear anywhere on the official agenda, several leaders used part of their time to speak directly to the people of Nunavut about the plan.

The conference’s two co-chairs, John Amagoalik, the NIC’s chief commissioner, and Mary Simon, Canada’s ambassador for circumpolar affairs, talked about the plan in their opening remarks.

Simon backs the plan

Simon said that the equality of men and women in traditional Inuit society would never have been questioned, but is now necessary to help fix the imbalances in the Inuit world caused by contact with outside cultures.

“Men and women in traditional times were always equal ¬ neither could survive without the work performed by the other,” Simon said in her opening remarks Monday.

“The proposal put forth by the commission is enlightened in its awareness of the need to rebalance what was once so, and do so through in such a simple and practical fashion.”

She said that if the people of Nunavut supported the gender parity plan it would go a long way to help the cause of oppressed women around the world.

Former MLA backs plan

But perhaps the most unexpected endorsement came from former Baffin South MLA Charlie Crow.

In his speech, Crow said he had consulted the Canadian Constitution and found that equality between the sexes was guaranteed under Section 28.

“I felt that it was my responsibility to state that,” Crow said in an interview.

Now blind and partly deaf, Crow said he’d thought deeply about the issue, and is now a passionate supporter of gender parity.

“When I first heard about it a couple of years ago I thought it was the wrong approach,” Crow said. “But I’m sure it’s going to work perfectly.”

Crow said when he was an MLA from 1987-91 there were only two women out of 24 MLAs ­ the same ratio exists in the current legislature.

“I think it’s going to improve our personal lifestyle where there is violence against women,” Crow said.

“We have the opportunity in Nunavut ­ let’s practice it.”

Pauktuutit gets involved

“Charlie was good. Charlie was powerful,” said Pauktuutit President Martha Flaherty in an interview.

Flaherty also spoke during the live three-day broadcast on TVNC in favor of gender parity.

“I really believe that if men and women can work together, we will find more ideas and more solutions,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty said men and women don’t think alike and they should be complementing each other’s ideas. She said she’s been asked to be part of a Yes side campaign committee that was to meet this week in Iqaluit.

Flaherty said the Yes side backers will have to explain to people what the gender parity plan is all about.

“This is not about competition. It’s for the sake of our children,” she said, adding that she has a “good feeling” about the outcome of the plebiscite.

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