The pros and cons of gender parity


In a short time Nunavut residents will go to the polls to say yes or no to a bold new idea ­ the Nunavut Implementation Commission’s two-member, one-man, one-woman constituency proposal.

It’s a plebiscite we don’t really need. The idea is now two years old, and Nunavut leaders should already have been able to make a decision on it.

For example, Nunavut leaders have already decided that Nunavut should have a directly elected premier. That’s an equally radical idea ­ and yet Nunavut leaders don’t seem to believe there’s any need for a plebiscite to ratify it.

But unless the plebiscite is cancelled for some unforseeable reason, we now have no choice but to accept that it will happen. And that means each one of us must soon search deeply inside our minds and our hearts before we decide how to vote.

In a past editorial, Nunatsiaq News endorsed the NIC’s proposal, on the condition that the idea receive wide support from Nunavut residents. We believe that support already exists, and that there’s no pressing reason for a plebiscite on the issue.

However, we also believe in telling both sides of the story, and presenting all possible positions on issues as fairly as we can.

Here’s out best attempt, then, to summarize some strengths and weaknesses of the NIC’s two-member constituency proposal.

The pros

As Nunavut leaders have already decided, Nunavut’s legislative assembly will need at least 20 or 22 members to be effective. We need an assembly that’s large enough to accommodate a seven or eight member cabinet, a speaker, and an ordinary member’s caucus that’s large enough to keep the government accountable. Two-member constituencies are the simplest way of taking Nunavut’s 10 existing electoral districts and using them as the basis for a 20 or 22 member legislative assembly.
More women in the legislative assembly will produce a government that’s better for women and families.
More women in government means a more competent government and better leadership­ Nunavut’s recent history is littered with examples of male leaders who have been spectacular failures.
Men and women in Nunavut need to be reconciled ­ a legislative assembly with equal numbers of men and women will symbolize and encourage that reconciliation.
The cons

Traditional Inuit culture and language does not recognize “gender” ­ or sexual identity ­ in the way most European languages and cultures do. In Inuktitut, there is no equivalent for words like “he” and “she,” or “Mr.” and “Mrs.” A male child can be given a woman’s name and a female child can be given a man’s name. Unlike most European languages there is no gender in Inuktitut grammar ­ this is all rooted in a different way of thinking about sexual differences among human beings. Therefore, to divide human beings into a male class and a female class is arbitrary, artificial, and alien to traditional Inuit culture.
Having more female legislators does not necessarily mean better government for women and families, and by itself, could have little effect on poor social and economic conditions. Many women elected to high office have little interest in so-called “women’s rights,” insofar as that term is commonly understood by liberals, leftists and feminists.
Women elected under the two-member constituency system may feel that they have not completely earned the right to be there ­ because they will never have a chance to compete directly against men.
These are just a few of the arguments that you are sure to hear over the next couple of months.

But whatever is said by each side in the plebiscite campaign, the people of Nunavut will need clear and honest information about the issue.

The officials who are now working out the details of the plebiscite must find a way of making sure that the Nunavut legislative assembly plebiscite is decided by an informed electorate.

And all Nunavut residents­ male, female, Inuit and non-Inuit¬ should take advantage of this rare chance to decide your own future and get out and vote in the plebiscite.

Share This Story

(0) Comments