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Why aren't more women in politics? N.W.T. committee discusses

Women met in Detah Wednesday night to discuss the barriers keeping them from entering politics and, ultimately, the territory's legislative assembly.

'Women really are still in caregiving roles, and that seems to be the biggest thing,' said MLA Julie Green

Yvonne Nakimayak ran in the last territorial election. She says she had to bring her daughter with her while campaigning. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

A group of women met with politicians in Detah on Wednesday night to discuss what barriers are keeping them from entering politics and, ultimately, the territory's legislative assembly.

The meeting was part of the work a committee of MLAs is doing to find out how to get more women into power.

The Special Committee on Increasing the Representation of Women in the Legislative Assembly met with residents in Hay River, Fort Providence and Fort Smith last week for similar discussions.

Just two of the assembly's 19 members are women. One of them, MLA Julie Green who represents Yellowknife Centre, is chair of the committee.

She said one of the big issues they've heard from women is a lack of confidence, but that's not all that's holding them back.

"Women really are still in caregiving roles, and that seems to be the biggest thing," said Green.  

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green is chair of the committee. She says one of the barriers women in the territory face is that they're still in caregiving roles. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

"So if you're a woman and you live in Ulukhaktok and you're the primary breadwinner slash caregiver in your family, coming to the legislative assembly where it takes you two days to go each way is a really big ask."

The meetings come after a report was tabled in the legislative assembly in June. It explored the idea of adding seats to the assembly that are reserved for women.

Bringing kids on the campaign trail

Yvonne Nakimayak said it can be challenging to juggle childcare and a potential political career. 

Nakimayak ran for MLA in the Sahtu during the last territorial election. She shared her experience having to travel with her daughter while campaigning.

Nakimayak is married to Nunakput MLA Herb Nakimayak, who is a member of the committee. 

"I did my best to ensure that my daughter had a plan to be in school, but the minute that I went on campaign trail she was like 'I need to come with you,'" she said.

"I brought her to a few [communities] in order for her to experience and understand what I was doing so that there was comfort in the household as it was evolving or potentially evolving."

Jessica Landry wants more to be done to encourage teenage girls to get involved in politics. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Jessica Landry also attended the meeting. She suggested trying to encourage more teenage girls to get involved in politics.

"Politics at my young age was not something I thought about because it was not something that was encouraged, and it's nothing I had access to," she said.  

Liza Pieper, former president of the Native Women's Association, said she didn't become interested in leadership until after her children were grown. She said getting women into politics at a younger age starts with how children are raised.

"It's a matter of providing support to a lot of our women and young people to boost their confidence, to boost their energy and empowering them," she said.

Liza Pieper, right, said getting women into politics at a younger age starts with how children are raised. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

More meetings, policy changes to come

Two more meetings have been scheduled: one on Thursday night in Yellowknife at the legislative assembly, the other will take place in Fort Simpson on January 23 at the community hall. Both meetings start at 7 p.m.

And more are expected to be scheduled this week.

When the meeting in Fort Simpson wraps up, Green said the committee will looking into recommendations to change policy within the legislative assembly. She said changes wouldn't happen before the next assembly took power. 

The next territorial election is in October. 

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