International Women’s Day 2022, March 8, arrives as the Northwest Territories leads the nation in at least a couple of interesting categories.
First, public health data show that the rate of new Covid-19 cases is declining here in the NWT faster than any other province or territory. This is a wonderful thing, with the trajectory of the strain on our healthcare system seeming to dovetail nicely with the April 1 reopening we’ve been promised.
Second, since the byelection in Monfwi that Jane Weyallon Armstrong won in July, our Legislative Assembly has not just more elected members who identify as female than any other in Canada, proportionately, but the only majority of members, 10 of 19, who are female. The same might be said for Premier Caroline Cochrane’s executive council, or cabinet, which counts five women: Diane Archie, Paulie Chinna, Julie Green, Caroline Wawzonek and Cochrane, as well as two men: R.J. Simpson and Shane Thompson.
That’s also how the seven seats in the capital are split, with Caitlin Cleveland and Katrina Nokleby joining Wawzonek, Green, Cochrane, Kevin O’Reilly and Rylund Johnson as Yellowknife MLAs.
The communities are well represented, too, with MLAs such as Lesa Semmler of Inuvik-Twin Lakes chairing the committee of the whole as Deputy Speaker of the House and Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos taking over recently the key position of chair of caucus.
Five to two, that would be a monster majority in the Honk of Commons, er, sorry, House of Commons, in Ottawa. That’s Jean Chretien Shawinigan handshake early 1990s territory. Just imagine the borderline unwatchable Royal Canadian Air Farce sketches that would result.
That’s a hopefully humorous parable. Of course we’re not suggesting decisions are made solely along gender lines in cabinet. But it’s also a very different look from the cabinets of Bob McLeod II, Bob McLeod I and beyond into the annals.
Speaking of major decisions, our public health leadership is largely female, too, to point at chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola, sometimes referred to as the NWT’s “top doctor” and (though departing) territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg.
Those of you who also take the time to peruse Yellowknifer may have noticed that both of our labour columns, from the Union of Northern Workers and the Public Sector Alliance of Canada, used to be written by men. Now, both are written by women, a result of the elections of Gayla Thunstrom to the presidency of the UNW and Lorraine Rousseau as regional executive vice-president of PSAC-North.
Melissa Syer and Jennifer Phillips, likewise, lead the lobby for businesses as executive directors of the Yellowknife and NWT Chambers of Commerce, respectively.
Whether we’re used to unprecedented times or not after two years of pandemic life, the ripples of cause and effect emanating from the front lines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will put us squarely in unmarked territory again. Witness the drama that surrounded the arrival of Russian citizens at the Yellowknife airport last week.
The last two years were shaped in a big way by most of the names on this page. The next two, and beyond, will be shaped by all of them.
We wish them the best as a new day dawns for us all. Time to rise and shine.