This past month, Northerners voiced a resounding message of change in Northwest Territories politics, voting in new a majority of new MLAs. Key to the current territorial government is its distinct character of a consensus-style, non-partisan structure. Once governed exclusively by non-Indigenous bureaucrats in faraway Ottawa, the NWT now has a wide array of individuals—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—who come from all Northern regions.
But, as recent elections have demonstrated, the glaring absence of women continues. In the 2011 NWT election, 19 per cent of candidates (nine of 47) were women. This past month, this number fell to just under 17 per cent. Of the candidates, 10 of 60 were women, and only two of those 10 were elected to represent the ridings of Yellowknife Centre and Range Lake.
The stark absence of women in the Legislature—and in the future Cabinet—demonstrates that the territorial government is not fully representative of Northern demographics, thereby allowing us to question that value of a so-called ‘consensus’ government. Those issues aside, it is timely to consider how and why women, particularly Indigenous women, remain outside the political sphere.