Throwing it all away

By JIM BELL

When Nunavut residents said No to the NIC’s gender parity proposal this Monday, they threw away a chance to make history and make Nunavut’s legislature a home for all residents.

Nunavut voters also threw away a simple, elegant solution to two big problems that aren’t going to go away simply because most people who voted on Monday said No.

The first problem is how to create 20 or 22 reasonably sized constituencies out of Nunavut’s 26 small communities. The three-member electoral boundaries commission now working on Nunavut’s electoral map have just been handed a much more difficult task than what they had. And it’s now likely they’ll end up giving us a set of convoluted constituency boundaries that will look like the spilled insides of a dead seal.

The second ­ and greatest ­ problem is that many of our best educated and most reliable residents will continue to be discouraged from serving the public.

Compared to most of Nunavut’s men, Nunavut’s women are more literate, more level-headed and more skilled. Those are the leadership qualities our leaders will need as we move into the knowledge based world of the twenty-first century.

A self-governing Nunavut will need leaders who know how to read, write, count and compute in both of our major languages, and leaders who know how to show up for work without a hangover.

But take a look at who shows up the next time your regional Inuit association or community council holds a meeting. Then, count the number of men around the table who possess those qualities.

Next, count the number of women who possess those qualities. Observe who’s doing the typing, the interpreting, the translating, the minute-taking, the bookkeeping and the telephone-answering. Observe who’s doing the work that actually takes brains to do.

If you do that, you’ll understand what the people of Nunavut really lost in Monday’s vote. You’ll understand that the gender parity proposal was not created for the benefit of women ­ it was created for the benefit of all.

Our public life will therefore continue to be impoverished by the absence of women in our decision-making bodies.

As John Amagoalik said in this newspaper last week, there’s a good reason why legislatures are called houses: they’re the places where the affairs of the human family are discussed and debated.

But the house of Nunavut will remain just that ­ a house. Voters have now thrown away the best chance they had to make that house a home.

During the plebiscite campaign, some people suggested that children would suffer if their mothers were to all fly off to the legislature to indulge in law-making, policy formation and other trivial pursuits.

They didn’t, however, explain how it is that community freezers continue to bulge with meat even though all the men are now flying off to do the same thing now.

Maybe the best solution is to let men do what they like to do best: hunt, fix their skidoos and tell tall tales while they’re lying around on the caribou skins their wives have cleaned and scraped for them.

Meanwhile, Nunavut’s women could be sent to all those boring meetings in their place.

That way, we might even get some legislators who actually read the laws they vote for.

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