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Voting by gender

No balloons or painted campaign buses, and barely any door-to-door soliciting. Unlike the noisy campaigns to the south, the first election in Nunavut was informal and low-key. Residents in small communities already knew the candidates running — and their families. When people went to the polls in 1999, they did it on their own terms, electing a consensus government and making special provisions for voting in a vast territory. They were looking for candidates to tackle the region's toughest obstacles: poor access to health care and high suicide and unemployment rates.

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In May 1997, the people of Nunavut are about to vote on a groundbreaking plebiscite. Should one man and one woman be required to represent each local riding? Equality of the sexes is nothing new to the Inuit. Men hunted; women looked after the children. Both genders participated in community decisions. But as seen in this CBC Television clip, the Northwest Territories minister for women opposes the proposed gender-voting system because she doesn't "want to be told to just run against a woman."

If gender voting is chosen as Nunavut's official system, electors will select two candidates from separate male and female lists for each of Nunavut's 19 ridings. 
• The plebiscite referred to in this clip was part of preparations for Nunavut's creation on April 1, 1999. The creation of the new territory marked the first change to Canada's map since 1949 when Newfoundland joined Confederation.
• Electors voted against the motion for gender parity in the legislature. If the vote had gone the opposite way, Nunavut would have had the world's first gender-equal legislature.

• Nunavut's population is 26,745; males 13,840, females 12,905 (2001 Census). About 85 per cent of the population is Inuit.
• Nunavut has 19 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs): a cabinet of seven, a Speaker, a premier and 10 other MLAs.
• In an earlier plebiscite in 1982, 56 per cent of the Northwest Territories voted to divide and create Nunavut.

• Although the 1982 plebiscite was not binding, it influenced the decision to establish the new territory.
• The Nunavut Act, passed federally in 1993, made the decision official.
• An amendment to the act was made so elections for premier and MLAs could be held before Nunavut actually became a territory. Residents wanted a government in place for Nunavut Day (April 1, 1999).
• For more on the division process, visit Creation of Nunavut.
Medium: Television
Program: Sunday Report
Broadcast Date: May 25, 1997
Guest(s): Jose Kusugak, Manitok Thompson
Host: Wendy Mesley
Reporter: Eva Aariak
Duration: 2:42
Photo: Pro-gender-parity button.

Last updated: September 20, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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