Opinion divided
No agreement on the controversial issue

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 24/97) - Nunavut will get its first taste of self-government with the vote scheduled for May 26.

That's when voters will decide whether the new Nunavut legislature will have a guaranteed equal number of male and female MLAs.

Known as "gender parity," the proposal for guaranteed equality is a controversial topic in and outside Nunavut and there are many sharp opinions.

Most people contacted by News/North were aware of the upcoming public vote and planned to cast a ballot.

Becky Kudloo, education council coordinator in Baker Lake, said the move toward equality is long overdue and sees it as a great opportunity for women to get their concerns heard.

"It will mean that their voices will be heard, and their concerns will be addressed," she said.

Kudloo also said that social issues will become more of a concern for government, thus benefiting communities.

"Social issues will be addressed more because women are the ones that try to keep communities and families healthy," she said. "The government typically looks after municipal services, not individuals."

Cathy Rose, a nurse in Grise Fiord, agrees with Kudloo, maintaining that the legislation is long overdue and will mean a great leap forward for women.

"I don't think the present patriarchal government really serves woman's needs," she said. "And I think it's progressive of them to want to try something never done before."

Peah Sowdluapik, a co-op store manager-in-training in Pangnirtung, disagrees with gender parity, saying it inhibits freedom, rather than promotes it.

"I don't think we should be told to vote for a man and a woman," she said. "If there were more women running in the first place, we'd vote for them."

Down the coast to Cape Dorset, Teetee Curley, a mechanic, said that sex isn't a factor when electing representatives to the government.

"I don't care who's in the government as long as they do their job," he said. "Women are just as good politicians as men -- it's not like being a mechanic or something."

Todd Roache of Nunavut wildlife said that he's all for equality but doesn't like to be told who to vote for.

"I think that it should be the choice of the voters, to choice the best candidate," he said.

Vince Ningark, a planning lands administrator in Pelly Bay, echoes the same opinion.

"I think Nunavut made a dumb move -- the dumbest move I've every seen Nunavut do," he said.

"I probably shouldn't be saying this, but it needs to be said. I know a lot of women who can become politicians, and who can do it without Nunavut."

Ningark said that the proposed legislation is ridiculous.

"It should be how people want to elect people, not about how Nunavut wants to elect people."

Even those for gender parity can see a problem with using legislation to ensure the territorial government is evenly male and female.

"The public perception may be that the women will be there to look after women's issues only," said Kudloo.

She maintains that despite the legislation, it will take a long time to change public attitudes about a woman's ability to be a leader.