Some women in the Northwest Territories are criticizing an idea to create an annual mock women’s parliament as a way to encourage more women to run in territorial politics.

The idea was proposed by Premier Bob McLeod, who's also the Minister Responsible for Women, and endorsed by the N.W.T. Status of Women Council in March.


Arlene Hache, a women's rights activist in Yellowknife, says the idea of a women's parliament is "ridiculous, patronizing.” (CBC)

“I think a women's parliament is ridiculous, patronizing,” says Arlene Hache, a Yellowknife woman who has run for a seat in the territory’s legislature multiple times.

Hache points out that the government could focus on addressing actual barriers to women politicians, such as child care and a lack money or the social attitudes that discourage women from running.

In the 2011 election, Hache's campaign signs were covering in graffiti with words like “slut” and “whore."

“The whole tone of the attack against me was about women not being able to do the job effectively,” she says.

Right now, two out of 19 N.W.T. MLAs are female. Neither are in cabinet.  

‘A bizarrely patriarchal solution’

An essay by Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox in the journal Northern Public Affairs makes a similar point.

“A women’s parliament is not only substantively pointless, financially wasteful and therefore inadvisable, but could actually be harmful,” she writes.

Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox

Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox calls the idea of a mock women's parliament 'bizarrely patriarchal.'

“A bizarrely patriarchal solution to put the women in a room together to play at politics further solidifies a view of women as a special interest group in need of male instruction and ‘help.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In an interview with CBC North, Irlbacher-Fox says a better fix would focus on men changing their attitudes.

“Particularly men in power because they’re the ones who make the rules,” she says.

Irlbacher-Fox suggests convening an Understanding Patriarchy and Male Privilege Parliament for male MLAs.

The CBC plans to interview Premier McLeod today.