Iqaluit city councillor encourages Inuit women to apply for council

‘Inuit women’s voices are important,’ says Coun. Sheila Flaherty

Coun. Sheila Flaherty, seen here in a 2020 file photo, is encouraging Inuit women to apply for the two vacant seats on Iqaluit’s city council. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Coun. Sheila Flaherty says she never thought she could be an Iqaluit city councillor. But when the outgoing mayor, Madeleine Redfern, gave a statement encouraging Inuit women to run for council, it “brought me to tears.”

“I thought it was always for somebody else, like, I’m not qualified, but then I ran, and here I am,” Flaherty said in an interview. “I’m a city councillor.”

There are two vacancies on Iqaluit’s city council. The city is taking applications until Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m.

The spots opened up when former deputy mayor Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster won the Iqaluit-Sinaa seat in the Nunavut legislature in October, and when former Coun. John Fawcett resigned due to personal reasons at the end of 2021.

To fill the vacancies, council had the choice to pick the two candidates who had the next-most amount of votes from the 2019 election, or issue a public call for applications to appoint two candidates.

When Brewster took up her post as MLA, Flaherty proposed putting out a call for applications rather than choose candidates from the 2019 election.

That was because Brewster became the second Inuit woman to leave council since the 2019 election, and Flaherty said she wanted to give Inuit women the chance to restore those numbers.

“I would just like to see Inuit women coming forward and to not be concerned too much about volunteerism or community involvement because what it comes down to, to me, is that Inuit women’s perspectives and our lives, our lived experiences, help inform city council’s decisions,” she said.

Flaherty said council will review the applications that come in and then vote on who to appoint. She said she doesn’t know whether the vote will be held in public or not.

Iqalummiut who want to apply must meet a series of requirements, such as not being in debt to the city and having paid property taxes on time. Besides that, Flaherty said she doesn’t want potential applicants to be deterred if they don’t think they have the right experience.

“So, shake off any doubt,” she said. “It really comes down to representation and our voices are important. Inuit women’s voices are important.”

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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Show up on

    Yes represent but show up for council meetings if you look at the attendance history it needs improvement to have a voice

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    • Posted by Barry on

      yes kenny we know

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  2. Posted by Frustrated on

    I appreciate what Sheila is saying here. She’s right.

    But I’m more puzzled than ever with council’s choice to take applications NOW for council spots when there were nearly 30 candidates in the last election.

    Just LAST YEAR they appointed a white male southerner (who happens to be a very good friend of Bell’s) to council, even though he had no real credentials except talking a big game.

    And now not surprisingly Bell’s buddy is out. Next in line we have a well respected young Inuk male who came in 10th place. And NOW they decide to change course?

    Or is it because someone on council has beef with the 11th place candidate, who should also be offered a spot?

    Anyway, this is a minor controversy compared to the crap storm the mayor and CAO are involved in now. Maybe they’re doing the 10th and 11th candidates a favour.

    I sincerelt HOPE the rest of council have the courage to accept the nomination of a shark who isn’t afraid to call out Bell’s incredible mountain of B.S. he’s built. It only took 3 fuel contaminations to get the guy to stop mouthing off on his twitter and blaming the media for his incompetence.

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    • Posted by Judgy Tone You Think on

      You use term ‘who male southerner’ like it is distasteful or a moral failure. It is no better or worse than “minority female northerner’’.

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      • Posted by Frustrated on

        I am a southern white male, but maybe I should have said “southern white knighters”.

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  3. Posted by Basket of cliches on

    Doesn’t anyone find these well worn tropes about “(insert identity) voices” and the more fashionable “lived experience” beyond tedious? Is this all we have left in the world, unreflective mimicry?

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    • Posted by Speech Codes on

      Funny, I was going to say “I swear I’ve read this interview before…. maybe 100x”

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    • Posted by Fight the Power on

      I’ve yet to figure out how lived experience differs from experience.
      .
      Anyway. “Inuk Woman on Council who was inspired by Inuk Woman former mayor wants Inuk Women to apply for Council because they need to replace Inuk Woman who was elected to a more powerful body”.
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      Oh the oppression. I feel it in my bones.

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      • Posted by Unify by Divide on

        And how fitting that right next to this comment is “Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada” nominations for “Inuk Woman of the Year” and “Young Inuk Woman of the Year” awards. I get it. You’re all lovely. I would almost never hear your voices, if it wasn’t for my ears.

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      • Posted by Binky the Doormat on

        My intuition is that ‘lived experience’ is meant to carry more gravitas than ‘personal experience’ (though they appear mean the exact same thing) which has become hackneyed and banal through years of common use.

        The new iteration pumps life into the old phrase because it is less common, in turn signaling membership in a higher social class or group. It spreads through mimicry, the same way any new fashion does.

        None of this can be fully understood without reference to identity politics of course, which creates a hierarchy wherein some identities—and thus experiences—are more valued than others. This explains the emphasis on being a woman and an Inuk (an ‘intersection,’ some might say)

        It would be nice to hear an explanation from the people who actually use these kinds of terms.

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        • Posted by IMHO on

          These kinds of terms have become meaningless.

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      • Posted by Representation matters on

        Seriously. One woman on council with seven men is not adequate representation. Since the 2019 election the council has lost two Inuit women. It is not unreasonable to want to see more women around the table.

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        • Posted by Of course on

          It’s not unreasonable and I don’t see anyone suggesting it is.

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      • Posted by Enlightenment on

        I stepped on the brakes and my car spun around two full times before coming to a stop, still on the road. It was a terrifying experience.
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        For three years I lived on Public Assistance, while applying for every job I was in any way qualified for. Most days I ate only one small meal, so there would be food for my two kids to eat. After three years of applying for jobs I finally got an interview. Three months later i was hired. It was not until a moth after that, that i got a paycheck and we were all able to eat. We lived that experience for 40 months. It’s a lived experience I hope you never have to go through.
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        See the difference?
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        You can have an experience in an instant.
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        A lived experience is typically something you endure or experience for a considerable length of time.

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        • Posted by Frank(ly) on

          Wow, you really lived up to your pseudonym there.

          My understanding of the etymology of the term is it is meant to distinguish between knowledge gained through academic or theoretical processes versus applied knowledge gained through personal experience (which again makes me wonder why the phrase ‘personal experience’ needs modification at all).

          So, if true, that would include the spinning car on ice as well as your life on public assistance, they both belong to the same category.

          All that said, I maintain that the term is very often invoked as intellectual fashion and as an indicator of class or place within a social hierarchy – your name ‘Enlightened’ demonstrates this point.

          Thank you for responding to the request for a definition.

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    • Posted by Well.. on

      I would agree that the term “lived experience” has become a fashionable phrase, and I think that people in politics are using it as they often do with latest concepts, for populist reasons and to seek votes in future elections, i.e. they are empty words. Women, however, are under-represented in politics. We are 50% of the population but we are not equally involved in decision making. When we reach the stage where we can be 70-90% of the elected officials on a regular basis in various levels of government, I will trust that we do not need encouragement to sign up and I will be ok with us being 10% of the elected officials at times, 50% at other times, 30% at yet other times. Until we randomly happen to get 70-90% of the seats in elected bodies, we will sadly need to be encouraged to trust that we are as worthy and capable and to not fear the unpleasant demeaning behaviours from the cavemen out there (and I am NOT saying that the majority of men in Canada are cavemen but there are still a fair number of them).

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      • Posted by Binky the Doormat on

        You make good points and I agree with you.

        I think that representation that strikes a good balance between peoples of different groups (ethnic, gendered) is a desirable thing. I believe most people, perhaps not all, would prefer a more balanced council than a less balanced one.

        My issue is that a story like this appears to place tremendous emphasis on more superficial characteristics, making those appear sufficient to the challenges of leadership; race, gender, and the quasi-mystical ‘lived experience’ for example. To pretend that they are is untrue and seems to subtly say that our expectations need not rise any higher than this.

        Of course, a person’s experiences, shaped by their gender and race, can contribute tremendously to their understanding of the world and their abilities and can inform a perspective that is invaluable in a role like this… or, they may not do any of that.

        Either way, I hope nothing here is taken as discouragement to the women out there who might want to get involved. That was not the point.

  4. Posted by Funny on

    Funny to hear the mayor on the radio on February 10 expressing how keen he is to see the two vacant counselor positions filled by Inuit women. He had the option along with other counselors to pick an Inuk male and a female (albeit not Inuk) from the the previous election (next two in line in terms of votes). Why was that not done? Of course we need more Inuit women in politics, I would never question that as I agree with that general statement, but the mayor sounds entirely disingenuous to me. If only males or non-Inuit females put in their name, will he and council appoint them instead of the people who previously got the next number of votes? Let’s see how far the mayor’s support for women in his little political realm goes.

    • Posted by might want to read on

      the mayor has no say in this process, councilors voted for the process and they vote for the people.

      mayor only votes if a tie, then and only then can we be mad at him for a decision of council.

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