"We can make our own decisions"

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 24/97) - A small, grassroots group in Rankin Inlet is sending a message to Inuit leaders promoting gender parity - Nunavut voters are capable of thinking for themselves.

"Designated Inuit Organizations (DIOs)...should take a neutral, unbiased voice," advised the Rankin group Qauliqtuq in a press release issued last week.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), the Nunavut Implementation Commission (NIC) have publicly expressed their support for a gender equal Nunavut legislature.

NIC and NTI, as well as the NWT Status of Women Council and Pauktuutit, have stated they will be actively promoting gender parity leading up to the May 26 plebiscite.

Qauliqtuq, composed of seven people, was formed last week, said spokesperson Theresie Tungilik.

"It is a group of concerned people that feels it isn't fair of DIOs to be pushing one side of the vote," said Tungilik.

"It should be their responsibility to inform the people of what is coming up and answer questions, not dictate how people should vote."

Tungilik said the group opposes gender parity but will not be campaigning against it.

Executive director Simon Awa said the NIC makes no apologies for publicly supporting gender parity.

"I don't see a reason why NIC should not be promoting gender parity," said Awa. He noted the NIC is not a Designated Inuit Organization.

"We have recommended two-member constituencies based on gender parity," said Awa. "We believe in that and we'll promote that. The commission hasn't back tracked on the issue and the recommendation still stands."

Under the NIC proposal there would be two electoral seats in each riding, one for males and another of females.

Each voter would cast two ballots, one for each gender, and each riding will be represented a male and female MLA.

Aivilik MLA Manitok Thompson said NTI and NIC may be shooting themselves in the foot by promoting gender parity.

"One elder even called me up and said when white people started coming up they told the people `This is how you should do it.'

"Now we have Inuit leaders telling the people, `This is the way you should do it, this is the best thing for you.'

"That's why people are getting upset with Inuit leaders -- and very respected leaders, like John Amagoalik -- for telling them `This is the way you should go,' without letting people decide on their own."

Thompson led the Nunavut caucus at the Cambridge Bay leaders' summit. There NTI and NIC argued a plebiscite should not be held, gender parity should be a feature of Nunavut.

Awa said the NIC will rely on local print media and radio to cultivate support for gender parity. Representatives may address the issue during visits to other communities.

A 23-page NIC report released in 1995, "Two-Member Constituencies and Gender Equality -- A Made in Nunavut Solution," will form the basis of its campaign.

NIC officials, together with federal, GNWT and NTI staff, are also preparing a pamphlet aimed at a more neutral outlook on the subject, said Awa.

The pamphlet, set out in a question and answer format, should be finalized within a week.

NTI president Jose Kusugak was not available for comment.