culture & community philosophy & politics

    Assembly of Women (or; The New NWT Legislature)

    by Amber — November 16, 2019
    9 NWT women elected for the 19th assembly
    A record number of women were elected in the Northwest Territories election on Oct.1, 2019. From top left, Paulie Chinna, Caroline Cochrane and Julie Green. Centre from left, Caroline Wawzonek, Diane Thom and Lesa Semmler. Bottom from left, Frieda Martselos, Caitlin Cleveland and Katrina Nokleby. (from rcinet.ca)

    Welcome the 19th Assembly, where a record number of female candidates are elected in the Northwest Territories! Also the only female Premiere across Canada.


    Dear: 19th Assembly of the Northwest Territories,

    Congratulations on making history!

    While amazing to see this change, here, in our tiny isolated post, a place often forgotten by the rest of our country. And those who do see us, view us anything but progressive yet, here we are. Of the nineteen seats available in the Northwest Territories’ Legislative Assembly, nine of them were hard won by female candidates.

    News clipping of female assembly, Headline: Cochrane's Cabinet Makes History.

    More amazing to find that these women have also become Premiere (the only female premiere in Canada and the second in NWT history) and cabinet members. Of these eight positions, only two are held by men. This is without a doubt–history. But this is where the easy part of this history ends.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, the local media outlets have noted this achievement in headlines and sound bites. I’m sure you’re also aware that glorifying your positions in our legislative assembly based on your gender has ended. The entire territory and possibly some of Canada are now watching to see how you’ll really make history.

    It is unfortunate to admit that you will be watched closer than the male members of this assembly. You’ll be compared to the men of the past, as well as the present and held to a higher standard. After all, by having you in office we’re meant to see change. Big change, the kind of change no man has been able to achieve in the past.

    Elected members of the assembly

    It will be expected that your female touch will bring organization, attention to issues left untouched by the testosterone-fueled politics of the past, along with sparkle and shine. You will be expected to have it all. All the answers, direction and forward thinking. Big pressure, right? But here’s the kicker, you’ll also be expected to fail.

    I have hope that the citizens of the NWT who elected you into office can see you for who you are. You are not just women who elected into office, you are bright, capable, visionaries whose gender only matters for the record. Your successes and set backs will not belong to a gender, but to a territory, to the 19th assembly of the NWT, to you and you alone. We can not see the work that you do in the next four years as the work women do, but as the work this assembly does. It is not your gender that makes you strong, it is your choices.

    Of course, there are differences in the lives that men and women live. Boys and girls, in the past, were raised and viewed differently and this will affect the choices you make in your new positions. But we, if we want to set an example for the rest of Canada, must not look upon the work you do as a result of your gender. To be fair, we must see all nineteen members on equal footing or we will not continue to move forward.

    The NWT’s new cabinet. From left: Caroline Wawzonek, Paulie Chinna, Diane Thom, Caroline Cochrane, NWT Commissioner Margaret Thom, Shane Thompson, Katrina Nokleby, and RJ Simpson.

    We have a need for change, without a doubt and we have voted for you because we believe you can create the security we need. Not so we can make headlines, but so we can continue to thrive. So, in the interest of moving forward, I’m writing to you, with a promise, to watch you, to support you, to see you all equally. Your work, in my eyes, will be viewed as I have viewed past cabinet members.

    History is the story of our past. We can choose to tell the story of who is elected into office, or we can tell the story of what you do while you’re there.


    Photo credits – top: rcinet.ca , article clipping: Northern News Services, 3rd: Bill Braden, Last: Cabin Radio