In just one general election the Northwest Territories went from having the least representation by women in its Assembly to the most in the country. Moreover, women MLAs were elected to fill four of six cabinet positions and to be the premier. In this article, the author suggests these dramatic changes are a response, in part, to a significant discussion and debate members of the previous legislative assembly undertook to improve women’s participation and representation in the territory. She reviews the proposal for temporary special measures as a way to build representation, outlines other recommendations MLAs made to encourage more women to participate in territorial politics, and explains why this environment ultimately led many more women to put their name son the ballot in 2019.
In some ways, the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories has been a trailblazer in terms of diversity of representation in Canada. Since full responsible government returned in 1983, a majority of its MLAs have been Indigenous, as have all but two of its premiers. Moreover, Nellie Cournoyea became the first Indigenous woman to become premier of a province or territory in Canada and only the second woman ever to hold a premiership in the country. In terms of electing women to the Assembly, however, it has lagged behind many other jurisdictions. Currently only two MLAs are women (10 per cent of the Assembly) and since 1999 the Assembly has only surpassed this number of women MLAs once – three (or 15.8 per cent in 2007). In order to become a more representative body, the territorial Assembly unanimously adopted a motion to ensure at least 20 per cent of MLAs are women by 2023, and at least 30 per cent of MLAs are women by 2027. In this article, the author explains the concept of temporary special measures to achieve this goal. She outlines the experience of Samoa, another small jurisdiction with Westminster roots in which women were substantially underrepresented in parliament, to demonstrate how the NWT might reach these benchmarks. She concludes by noting that temporary special measures are one way of increasing women’s representation in assemblies, but others may work as well depending on the jurisdiction’s political culture and institutions. Continue reading “Temporary Special Measures: A Possible Solution to Get More Women Into Politics”