Gender-parity advocates launch info campaign
NTI rethinks aggressive approach to issue

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 28/97) - With a month to go before the public vote on gender parity, debate on the issue continues to be overshadowed by dispute over the role of Nunavut organizations.

The differences were highlighted last week with the release of a pamphlet to be distributed to all Eastern Arctic communities.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Nunavut Implementation Commission and Pauktuutit Inuit Women's Association jointly produced the three-page pamphlet entitled "For our families and our future."

It discusses how a legislative assembly comprised of a male and female MLA for each constituency would be elected, the alternative and the costs.

According to the pamphlet, its purpose is "to summarize the gender parity proposal, and to answer questions which voters may have about it."

But Aivilik MLA Manitok Thompson said it goes farther than that. "It's trying to be neutral, but when you read it you know that those people are supporting gender parity and they're telling people to vote yes," she said.

Thompson, minister responsible for the status of women, repeated past criticisms she's made of NIC and NTI, saying both are overstepping their mandates by promoting gender parity.

"A lot of the beneficiaries I've heard on the radio, on the streets, in the coffee shops are tired of being told what to do and how to do it," said Thompson.

NIC chief commissioner John Amagoalik agreed the pamphlet does promote gender parity, but he added that NTI has every right to do the same.

"I don't see why they would not," said Amagoalik. "It is a publicly elected body."

He said that apart from promotion the pamphlet was designed to clear up misconceptions that surround the issue.

Asked if his position on gender parity has changed at all since NIC recommended it, Amagoalik replied, "Absolutely not."

But the criticism appears to have softened the aggressive approach NTI adopted following heated debate of the subject at the October Cambridge Bay Nunavut leaders' summit.

"At our executive meeting at Broughton Island last week we said we better take a step back, because people are going to think that we're taking one side," said Nunavut Tunngavik president Jose Kusugak.

He noted the decision to put the issue to a public vote changed NTI's role. Up until that time it was NTI's responsibility to take a position on the NIC recommendation.

"It's been so quick, we haven't had time to take a step back and say, 'People, you're on your own, on one side or the other.'"

That's quite a different approach than the one NTI took following the summit.

The NTI board issued a press release in March that stated "NTI will aggressively campaign to encourage residents of Nunavut to support the option of two members for each constituency and the requirement that one would be female and one male."

Last week, however, the pamphlet listed NTI as an organization that supports the gender-parity proposal.

"Now we have to educate everybody about gender parity. Since education means to look at both sides, as we speak, our board is trying to set up a teleconference to see if we can split any money we put toward this between an ad hoc committee on the yes side and an ad hoc committee on the no side."

Kusugak said a "yes" committee is being organized by Amagoalik and NTI secretary-treasurer Natsiq Kango. He said he is aware of no "no" committee.