Gender parity question unveiled



Organizers of the gender parity plebiscite released the question this week that they will ask Nunavut residents on May 26.

“Should the first Nunavut Legislative Assembly have equal numbers of men and women MLAs, with one man and woman elected to represent each electoral district?”

The answers to that question will determine whether Nunavut will get 20 or 22 single-member constituencies, or 10 or 11 two-member constituencies.

One man and one woman would be elected in each dual-member constituency.

The two-member gender parity proposal, guaranteeing that men and women would be equally represented in the first Nunavut legislative assembly, was recommended in a proposal made by the Nunavut Implementation Commission.

MLAs wanted vote

Nunavut Leaders agreed to hold a plebiscite on the issue after the 10 MLAs who make up the Nunavut caucus of the NWT legislative assembly refused to endorse the NIC proposal at a meeting held in Cambridge Bay last month.

Led by Manitok Thompson, the minister responsible for the status of women, the MLAs said they couldn’t support the proposal without first knowing what Nunavut residents think of the idea.

But Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin and Nunavut Tunngavik President Jose Kusugak were each willing to support the proposal.

Simple majority wins

Supporters of gender parity need a majority ­ 50 per cent plus one ­ to claim victory in the vote.

Asking the people of Nunavut whether they want gender parity will cost about $350,000 ­ a bill that Ottawa will pay from the pool of money earmarked for the creation of Nunavut.

Further details of the guidelines agreed upon by the three leaders of the Nunavut Political Accord for conducting the vote will not be released until early April.

Non-Nunavut residents can’t vote

Anyone 18 years or older can vote in the plebiscite, but they must have lived in Nunavut for at least one year prior to polling day.

Voters’ lists will be posted in communities by April 18 and additional names can be added until May 8.

People unable to vote on May 26 can cast a ballot in an advance poll set for May 15.

Eligible voters who cannot vote on either May 26 or during the advance poll ­ such as students studying outside their communities­ can apply to a local polling officer for proxy voting.

Plebiscite results are not binding, but it’s likely that the GNWT will endorse gender parity if a majority of voters answer Yes to the question.

The vote will be administered by the GNWT’s chief polling officer, David Hamilton.

Though the question and date of the plebiscite were announced only this week, campaigns supporting gender parity began right after the Cambridge Bay leaders’ summit.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the NWT Status of Women Council, and Pauktuutit, the nation’s largest Inuit women’s organization, have all publicly stated their support of gender parity.

Delegates at Pauktuutit’s annual general meeting this week in Puvirnituq unanimously endorsed the plan.

This week, some Inuit from Rankin Inlet also formed a group called Qauliqtuq to campaign against the gender parity plan.

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