Gender parity forces unveil plebiscite strategy

Campaign to include pamplets, ads and community visits as Yes side tries to dispel fear that dual-member ridings cost more



Buttons declaring “I understand” in Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun will begin appearing as the gender parity plebiscite campaign comes alive.

Supporters of dual member, one-man, one-woman constituencies kicked off their campaign earlier this week.

John Amagoalik, chief commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, NIC commissioner Meeka Kilabuk and Natsiq Kango, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. secretary-treasurer, held a press conference Wednesday to reveal their strategy.

The plebisicite is scheduled for May 26.

Nunavumiut will be asked to vote on whether or not they want an equal number of men and women MLAs, elected in dual-member ridings, in the first Nunavut legislative assembly.

Amagoalik said it was difficult to coordinate all the groups who want to be part of the Yes campaign. He admitted the Yes forces have been a little slow to get going.

“We were a little bit late, but three weeks is plenty of time to work,” he said. “I think the issue will peak about a week before the vote. That’s when people really start thinking about what they are going to do when they get to the voting booth.”

The Yes side plans to distribute buttons in English, French, Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun. They’re also preparing pamphlets and newspaper ads for distribution throughout Nunavut. Amagoalik said Yes forces would also visit some communities.

Because of the delay, the Yes side must try to clear up rumors that gender parity will cost more or that men will vote only for men and women only for women, Amagoalik said.

“There are some misconceptions about the mechanics of the vote and how things will actually work,” he said.

Amagoalik couldn’t say how an equal number of men and women legislators would change Nunavut, but that it would be a better reflection of Inuit society than the current system.

“We can’t predict how things are going to turn out,” he said. “I think all we can do is provide the environment where men and women work better, cooperate more and understand and respect each other.

“In today’s system, I think there’s a lack of communication between the two sexes. There’s a lack of understanding and, in many instances, there’s a lack of respect.”

Amagoalik said the Yes side has no objections to a sunset clause that would allow the gender parity proposal to be used for only two or three elections.

“If people are a little nervous about this and they want to try it out and see how it works, we’re prepared to consider it,” he said. “But it’s very difficult to put a genie back in the bottle.”

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