1. What do you think are the most pressing women’s rights and gender equality issues in the Northwest Territories and how do you think the Territorial government should start to address them?
My response begins with a quote, which to me is a more accurate characterization of what I believe than I could ever articulate.
“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”
Creating an environment of gender equality and stemming the issue of violence against women are the most pressing issues and they are things I’ve worked to address my entire career. As Minister Responsible for the Status of Women during the last term of the Assembly, I re-doubled my focus on violence against women and families and building safe communities.
I was honored when the National Aboriginal Governments asked me to Chair the First National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. We will continue to respect those that have been lost or lost their lives without explanation. We must break the cycle of violence against all women. The Roundtable is another concrete platform from which to work.
We have already taken steps to address them. A New Day Healing Program is a Justice led pilot program under the Family Violence Framework that provides supports for adult men to prevent them from using violence in their intimate and family relationships.
The Domestic Family Violence Treatment Options Court is an option for low risk offenders who take responsibility for their actions (plead guilty) and agree to attend an 8-module program.
I am of the view that gender equality is not only a human rights issue, but is also an essential component of sustainable development and social justice (peace). And I will work hard to make those dimensions of our society understood.
2. On average, women continue to earn significantly less than men even in similar professions, and make up the majority of minimum wage and part-time workers. Women and men also continue to work in different sectors of the economy. Barriers women experience includes inaccessible or unaffordable childcare, a lack of skills training and education opportunities, and often a lack of mentoring and coaching. If elected, how will you work to ensure the Northwest Territories economy welcomes the contributions of women?
Long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential. Approximately 50% of the NWT’s population is female.
What would our society look like if 100% of our population were able to contribute equally to our success, and be rewarded as equals? It’s possible. We have a great example of progress in our Mine Training Society.
An impressive 30% of students passing through Mine Training Society programs are women, well above the 15% average working in mining and exploration nationally. What’s also impressive is that a lot of these women are single mothers who are finding the courage to leave their communities and carve out a new future for their families.
I believe the GNWT is already addressing gender equality and our personnel record illustrates the point. Female employees comprise the majority of the public service at 64.4%. These are well paying jobs. Of the 242 permanent senior managers in the public service at the end of 2014, 117 were female (48%).
There’s more that can be done to support not just female, but family empowerment. The new Federal government has committed to an enhanced Canada Child Benefit. All families, with children, that have annual household incomes below $150,000 will receive more in monthly child benefit payments.
The new Federal government has also vowed to increase the Federal Northern Resident Income Tax Deduction and index it to inflation so that it keeps up with Northerners needs. It’s important that northern families and businesses have money to save after they’ve paid for essentials and the time to act is now,not years from now.
I will aggressively pursue those two Federal commitments and I feel like we’re well-positioned to see them through quickly.
As I see it, one of the barriers within our control is more and better child/day care. The GNWT commissioned a comprehensive study on the matter last year. It was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on June 04.
While there are benefits to universal child/day care, there are also costs. The predicted public expense to provide child/day care to all 0-4 year olds is roughly $20-million per year.
That investment would have many economic benefits, including: increasing GDP by $16 million; increasing labour income by $14 million; and supporting nearly 200 person-years of employment. Equally important, there would be an increase in women entering the labour force, which in turn would increase tax revenue and, presumably, decrease social assistance costs.
I know there’s frustration about child/day care. It’s difficult to access and it’s expensive. But I will make review and implementation of some or all of the recommendations in the Affordable Day Care Study a priority in the 18th Assembly if re-elected. There’s much more to do. But this would be a good beginning.