The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Jackson Lafferty, tabled a white paper yesterday titled, “Temporary Special Measures to Increase the Representation of Women in the NWT Legislative Assembly”.

“The NWT Legislative Assembly ranks last among Canada’s 15 parliaments in terms of the representation of women,” the paper states.

In March, the Legislative Assembly adopted a motion with a goal of increasing the representation of women in the Legislative Assembly to 20 per cent by 2023 and 30 per cent by 2027.

This White Paper is intended to generate discussion on reaching those targets. .

Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Caroline Cochrane called the paper “very important”, and thanked Lafferty for tabling it.

“I want to give credit that it was actually a man that tabled this. Having women in leadership is not only a women’s issue, it is a societal issue, and we need men to step forward, ” said minister Cochrane.

“It’s important that women be in leadership. We don’t want to take over, we just want equal representation.
If we represent half of the Northwest Territories, then we should have equal voice within the legislative assembly.”

MLA for Yellowknife Centre, Julie Green echoed the minister’s sentiment, saying that men “need to be a part of the solution,” in solving the issue of women’s underrepresentation.

Women think differently about certain issues, and it’s important to have equal voices at the table when discussing those issues, the minister said.

“Women think about things like childcare, about poverty, those kind of issues, that men also think about but it might not be their main focus,” minister Cochrane said.

“Women are interested in the same issues as men, but also in issues that have a unique impact on women, and those issues don’t get a lot of profile right now,” said Green.

The paper looks at the use of temporary special measures in the South Pacific, in Samoa, where the constitution was amended to guarantee a minimum of five seats in the legislature for women.

“Samoa has modelled this possibility of temporary special measures, temporary meaning they are only for the life of  the assembly, ” said Green.

Some of the reasons women aren’t getting these seats are financial as well as societal and cultural, said minister Cochrane.

“Some cultures are still very traditional, which is good, we want to keep traditions. However, within that, they’ve constrained women in saying that women, especially Indigenous women, should not be in politics, period,” minister Cochrane said.

The hope is that these designated seats will encourage women to run for office, even if their community or culture doesn’t support them, the minister said.

If the NWT were to adopt the temporary special measures, it would be the first legislature in the country to do so.