This is page numbers 5299 - 5332 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was women.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Julie Green, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Mr. McNeely, Hon. Alfred Moses, Mr. Nadli, Mr. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne

The House met at 10:01 a.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Minister's Statement 167-18(3): International Women's Day
Ministers' Statements

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Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge International Women's Day. International Women's Day is held annually on March 8th to celebrate women's social, cultural, and political achievements throughout history and across nations. International Women's Day also provides an important opportunity to showcase commitments towards women's equality, to raise awareness, and to highlight initiatives towards gender parity.

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Better the Balance, Better the World." As the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, I am committed to achieving gender equality throughout our society. To me, the theme "Better the Balance, Better the World" means having women at the table making decisions that affect our everyday lives for the benefit of all. Women make up half the population of the Northwest Territories and the world. It is only reasonable to expect that half the people in a position of power should be women.

Mr. Speaker, gender equality is something many nations aspire to. Far too often, we fall short of achieving that goal, but it is not impossible. We have to work together to get there. Here in the Northwest Territories, we are taking steps towards gender equality. When we passed a motion in March 2018 to increase women's representation in the Legislative Assembly, we collectively said we support this initiative. When we set up the Special Committee to Increase the Representation of Women in the Legislative Assembly, we demonstrated our willingness to work together to improve the gender balance in this House and to open important public discussions on how best to do this.

There are many exciting initiatives both within and outside government right now: the Trail Blazer event, campaign schools, Ted Talks, and various leadership events.

Our young women and girls have great potential to be our future leaders. We need to provide them with the support and tools to reach that potential. Providing better access for women to education, affordable housing, healthcare, employment, and childcare helps women, but it also helps build a sustainable economy and benefits our society as a whole.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that women continue to face gender-based barriers and discrimination. These obstacles make it difficult for women to get an equal footing. We must continue to work together to develop and implement strategies to eliminate these barriers, prevent violence against women and girls, update policies and programs to promote the development of women in leadership positions, and continue the momentum to take action to achieve gender equality.

I thank all Northwest Territories' women for their invaluable contributions to our society today and throughout the year.

Mr. Speaker, I invite each Member of the Legislative Assembly to join me in recognizing International Women's Day. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 167-18(3): International Women's Day
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Colleagues, I would like to draw your attention to visitors in the gallery. Here with us today is Lynn Turcotte from Gameti. With her are Anita Turcotte and also Bridget Huff, both from Toronto. Welcome to the Northwest Territories and welcome to our Assembly. [Translation] We also have Violet Camsell-Blondin here with us in the gallery. Welcome. [Translation ends] Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

International Women's Day and Women's Representation in Politics
Members' Statements

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Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today we celebrate International Women's Day. The purpose of this commemoration is to bring attention to and advocate for the advancement of women in all areas of our society. On this day, we acknowledge gender inequalities and celebrate the empowerment of women. According to the official website for International Women's Day, this year's theme is "Balance for Better," which is a call for action for improving gender parity across the world.

In honour of this theme, Mr. Speaker, I would like to discuss the issue of women representation in electoral politics. This issue has been studied by many bodies, including the United Nations, the Parliament of Canada, and our own Legislature of the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, the United Nations determined that, in order to achieve significant policy change in government, all parliaments must attain a 30 percent threshold for women.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, our current Legislative Assembly in this Assembly does not meet that threshold. Our legislature consists of just 10.5 percent women. However, there are other political arenas within the NWT that have exceeded 30 percent, and I would like to highlight some of them today. For example, in our last 10 federal elections from 1988 to 2015, five of 10 elections were won by a woman, and that candidate was named Ethel Blondin-Andrew.

More presently, Mr. Speaker, since 2015, our capital city of Yellowknife has had a city council consisting of 37 percent women. In addition, as of 2018, four of the most populated communities in the NWT all elected women as mayors, with Rebecca Alty in Yellowknife; Kandis Jamieson in Hay River; Natasha Kulikowski in Inuvik; and Lynn Napier-Buckley in Fort Smith. In addition, there are five Dene communities where they are currently led by female chiefs, which includes April Martel of K'atlodeeche, Becky Cayen of West Point, Wanda Pascal of Tetlit Gwich'in, and Bernice Furlong of Inuvik Band and Freida Martselos of the Salt River First Nation. Mr. Speaker, I speak unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

International Women's Day and Women's Representation in Politics
Members' Statements

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Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi. Also, two of five of the regional grand chiefs within the Dene Executive Council are women, with Bobbi Jo Greenland as Gwich'in Grand Chief and Gladys Norwegian as the Deh Cho Grand Chief.

Mr. Speaker, while these stats have improved over the years, both within the territory and across the country, I know that our society can do better. In fact, in our upcoming territorial election, I hope to see women running in every single of the 19 ridings in the NWT. Even better, I hope to see at least six or more women elected to our Legislative Assembly to meet the 30-percent benchmark that all parliaments should aspire to attain. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

International Women's Day and Women's Representation in Politics
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Like most of my colleagues, I want to say something in respect of International Women's Day. In past years, for International Women's Day, I have spoken about my mother. She was an independent businesswoman, a single mother, and I couldn't imagine there was anything my mother couldn't do. When you grow up in that kind of household, there is no doubting how capable women are.

We are fortunate in the North, Mr. Speaker, that we have plenty of strong examples of women in leadership. I am not just talking about the women in this room or the women who were chosen as mayors and chiefs in elections last fall. Certainly, they are important role models and examples of successful women, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. I am talking about the strong, articulate visions that were presented at the independently organized TEDx conference in Yellowknife just before Christmas. Visions of academic and professional achievement and success, visions of strong balance between roles in family and leadership in the community. I am talking about the strong representation that emerged through the public consultations of our Special Committee on Increasing the Representation of Women. Those hearings identified some of the inherent barriers to increased participation of women in politics, barriers we must all be aware of and commit to confronting. Our role as leaders should be a look forward, Mr. Speaker, and to imagine: what is the best that we can do? What is the best that our family, our community, and our territory can be? Once we have a vision of what that is, Mr. Speaker, it should be on us to design a means to get there. I believe our territory will be stronger, fairer, and more capable if we have more women in positions of leadership and power.

It is an election year, Mr. Speaker, both in our territory and across the country. Maybe that is an opportunity to take some steps forward in representative democracy. Maybe it is a chance to get a little more balance on the ballot.

Mr. Speaker, on this International Women's Day, I would like to encourage more women to get involved, get to the meetings, share your ideas, put your name forward. It is time for every level of government to more accurately reflect all the people we serve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Recognition of Janelle Bruneau
Members' Statements

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to speak about a very special young lady from the Nahendeh riding. I have had the pleasure of witnessing her grow and develop into a leader since she was in grade seven. The person I am talking about is Janelle Bruneau. She is a daughter of Doris Pellissey and Daniel Bruneau. Her mother is from Wrigley and her father is from Fort Smith. She is very thankful for their continued support and guidance.

After graduating, she wanted to see what Canada had to offer, experience a different culture, face new challenges, and meet new people. McGill University gave her all this and more. Janelle is in her fourth year and is taking Geography as her major. She explained it is a diverse program that focuses on the physical and social environments that shape people's lives. She finds the courses very interesting. Her minor is in Indigenous Studies. It is about critical engagement in the Indigenous topic. It is about how Canada engages with Indigenous people and about the diverse history of all Indigenous people across Canada.

Beyond her studies, Janelle has been part of a group that is trying to make the campus safer and more inclusive for Indigenous students, since the university is well-known across the world for their programs. Unfortunately, sometimes a university doesn't seem to understand the difficulty Indigenous students face.

Another thing the group is trying to do is change the men's varsity team's name, the Redmen. The group has been working on this for the past year or so. It is about educating the masses about how offensive the name is for Indigenous people. Because of her advocacy, she has faced pushback from alumni and the varsity teams. Despite the reaction to this initiative, they have been successful in the principal of the university seriously looking at their concerns. A decision will be made in April.

Janelle feels that there is a need for more support for students who choose to study in the South. The support is vital for success in academics and essential for students to return to the North as effective members of our northern society.

Janelle encourages all students to have the strength to face adversity while chasing their dreams so you can become successful and proud of yourself. I wish her all the best and look forward to seeing her become one of our future leaders. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition of Janelle Bruneau
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today is March 8th, and that means it is International Women's Day, which gives us a clear opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women. As an ally, I do not wish to put words in the mouths of others, but wish to stand behind and support the actions, initiatives, and fights that are being led by women leaders from coast to coast to coast and around the world. Our society, cultures, country, and lives are enriched daily by the tireless efforts of women with whom we co-exist. Today is a chance for all of us to celebrate the achievements of the all-too-often unsung heroines in our lives and to renew efforts to achieving greater gender equity and equality.

I want to commend the honourable Members of this House for making women's political equity a top priority of this government, and in particular recognize the ongoing leadership on this and so many other issues by the honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre and the honourable Member for Range Lake.

The political lives of women have often been fraught with challenges. In the Canadian context, I must note the work of five incredibly strong Albertan women for speaking truth to power, Canada's famous five. Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, and Emily Murphy fought tirelessly for many issues, but their most long-lasting and wide-ranging struggle was for women to be recognized as persons under Canadian law. Now, this might seem quaint today, but the struggle is not over. It has merely become more nuanced. I want to thank and show my reverence to the battle these women fought for their common-sense acknowledgment that yes, indeed, women are persons.

In more recent news, the honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould is in the middle of her own battle. The truths and facts are battling out, and we have seen here many of the same talking points by her opponents as we have heard in the past. Whatever the outcome, Ms. Wilson-Raybould's belief is she is "always willing to speak truth to power" is a lesson that we can all use a reminding of. It is not easy to stand against one's colleagues, but it is important to stand one's ground, have your perspective heard, and to work tirelessly for meaningful action for change.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my statement today in the words of another woman who advanced her understanding of radiation and who ultimately paid the price for her work, and I hope that that serves as a reminder to us all that the road to progress is long and must be fought for. Madame Marie Curie: "I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy." Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Yellowknife Public Hearing by the Special Committee on Increasing Women's Representation
Members' Statements

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. On the occasion of International Women's Day, I would like to speak about what we are doing to promote women in leadership. I attended the lively public hearing in Yellowknife on January 17th by the Special Committee on Increasing the Representation of Women. There were about 30 participants, including media, and I would like to commend everyone for the respectful dialogue and the ideas that were put forward.

There were three main themes presented. One idea was to run elections for a woman and a man in each riding in the NWT to ensure that half of the MLAs are women. This is an interesting idea, but would probably not work, because not everyone identifies as binary.

Several presenters said that guaranteed representation of women through temporary seats raises issues of tokenism, may not address the root causes, and may lead others to request guaranteed representation.

Last and not least, some participants endorsed the idea of temporary special measures, where guaranteed seats is the only way to create the revolutionary change that is needed to ensure that women take their rightful place in decision-making here in the Northwest Territories.

There was also some discussion of how we can make the Legislative Assembly a friendlier place for those with young families.

This special committee has its work cut out for itself, and I thank all of the Members who have volunteered to serve on it during this last busy stretch of this Assembly. I participated in some of their meetings and truly appreciate the work being undertaken by the Members who have volunteered to serve.

The special committee is still accepting written submissions. I look forward to their report and encourage further input from Frame Lake residents and everyone in the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.