Two-thirds of communities turn down controversial proposal for new legislature
DWANE WILKIN and ANNETTE BOURGEOIS
Nunavut voters have rejected a bold plan to ensure gender parity in Nunavut’s first legislative assembly.
In a territorial-wide plebiscite on Monday, the unnofficial results showed that 57 per cent of those who cast ballots voted No to a proposal to create the world’s first government with legislated dual-membership, one-man, one-woman, constituencies.
The Numbers that said No
IQALUIT Here are the unnofficial community by community results of the May 26 Nunavut-wide vote on the NIC’s gender parity proposal.
A majority of residents in Cambridge Bay, Cape Dorset, Gjoa Haven, Iqaluit, Taloyoak, Umingmaktok, and a majority of Nunavut’s prison inmates voted Yes.
Residents of all other communities vote No.
Nanisivik/Arctic Bay 64 70
Arviat 81 192
Baker Lake 94 113
Broughton Island 83 68
Cambridge Bay 105 87
Cape Dorset 90 80
Chesterfield Inlet 9 117
Clyde River 40 47
Coral Harbour 25 79
Gjoa Haven 90 53
Hall Beach 33 55
Igloolik 119 162
Iqaluit 387 328
Kimmirut 49 72
Kugluktuk 68 66
Pangnirtung 122 169
Pelly Bay 32 48
Pond Inlet 68 141
Rankin Inlet 112 305
Repulse Bay 16 143
Resolute Bay 22 31
Sanikiluaq 55 91
Taloyoak 93 59
Whale Cove 24 28
Umingmaktok/Bathurst 32 6
Prison Inmates 48 24
Nunavut Totals: 1978 2662
“It’s a relief to know that this kind of consensus is coming from the people and not being dictated to them,” said Theresie Tungilik, a vocal opponent of the proposal.
Tungilik was one of thousands of Nunavut residents who waited anxiously by their radios as the results came in.
Although the first round of results showed the No side with a slim lead of just 18 votes, the margin widened as the evening progressed.
Only nine communities said Yes
In the end, only nine of 27 communities polled supported the gender parity proposal.
A delay in the return of results from Iqaluit made some opponents of gender parity nervous late Monday night, even as polls from the other communities showed the No side ahead by 600 votes.
“Iqaluit could turn the tables,” Tungilik said, shortly before hearing that the majority of voters in Iqaluit supported the proposal, but only by a margin of 8 per cent, and not enough to turn the tide.
Results from the territorial capital were delayed because the number of votes cast didn’t match the numbers of voters in one of the four polls.
Tungilik, part of the strong No campaign based in Rankin Inlet, said people welcomed the message that her group, Qauliqtuq, had conveyed.
No side close to the heart
“The Keewatin took a strong No because our side was campaigning close to the heart,” she said, explaining why the six communities in the region rejected the proposal.
“The Yes side was painting a picture that we had to have a man and a woman, but the No side said it doesn’t matter as long as we have good representation,” Tungilik said.
The plebiscite marked the end of a month-long debate carried out in church halls and school gymnasiums in a dozen communities. In the end, just 39 per cent of 12,085 registered voters bothered to cast ballots.
Tungilik said the low number of voters wasn’t surprising.
Many on the land
“I definitely would expect a low turnout in the month of May,” she said, explaining it’s the month when Inuit families feel drawn to the land to hunt and fish.
“It’s very much part of our tradition.”
All in vain: NIC chief commissioner put his heart and soul into the losing Yes side.
First put forth in a report prepared by the Nunavut Implementation Commission about two years ago, the proposal aimed to guarantee equal represenation for men and women in Nunavut.
If it had passed, voters in future territorial elections would have cast two ballots one from a list of male candidates and one from a list of female candidates.
At Yes campaign headquarters Monday night in Iqaluit, John Amagoalik, chief commissioner of NIC, sat stone-faced as they watched community voting results being recorded on spreadsheets covering a wall.
Voters were rejecting the proposal Amagoalik desperately wanted to become a reality.
In the hours that followed the plebiscite, Amagoalik, as well as Pauktuutit President Martha Flaherty, declined to comment on their defeat.
Nunavut Tunngavik President Jose Kusugak, a gender-parity supporter, said a longer campaign might have produced different results.
“People find it hard to accept a new idea and the uncertainty about how it’s going to work,” Kusugak said.
NWT has worst record in Canada
Of all Canadian provinces and territories, the Northwest Territories has the worst record when it comes to women in politics.
Though they make up 51 per cent of the population of Nunavut and tend to be better educated than their male counterparts, women hold just two out of 24 seats at the NWT legislative assembly in Yellowknife.
Only one woman MLA is from Nunavut.
Supporters of the gender parity proposal point to a range of barriers, including conservative attitudes about women’s role in society, as the source of women’s chronic under-representation in politics.
However, many northeners including many women saw the plan as demeaning and undemocratic.