The legislature was abuzz with the sounds of celebratory drumming on Aug. 5 at the swearing-in ceremony of Monfwi MLA-elect Jane Weyallon Armstrong.
The new MLA won the by-election on July 28, following the resignation in June of long-serving legislator Jackson Lafferty.
RELATED REPORTING: Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty resigns
Commissioner Margaret Thom led Armstrong through her oaths of office and allegiance, after which dozens of her family members and supporters, as well as MLAs, danced in a circle in the lobby while drummers played.
“I feel relieved to be sworn in and I thought about my late parents and my ancestors,” Weyallon Armstrong told Yellowknifer at the reception. “(I think) there are lots of things they would like to see accomplished. The Elders worry for what is happening in our region. The women’s role is important for them.”
While Weyallon Armstrong said she doesn’t want to focus on her gender, she said some young people joked to her that it took “100 years” for a woman to assume such a leadership role in her region.
“It’s a big accomplishment. It’s time. We need change. We need women’s views,” she said.
Weyallon Armstrong is now the 10th female member of the 19-member legislative assembly — a government that had already made headlines during the 2019 election for bringing five women into cabinet, including Premier Caroline Cochrane.
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Weyallon Armstrong’s main priorities as an MLA will be housing and social issues in her constituency.
“I can’t do it alone. I’ll need the people’s help and MLAs’ help,” she said. “When I visited a remote community, one Elder told me that when a vehicle goes into a ditch you can’t get it out by yourself, but when you have a few people helping, you can. That’s how you can move forward and make progress.”
As president of the Native Women’s Association of the NWT for the last six years, Weyallon Armstrong plans to continue putting domestic violence and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on the agenda in the legislative assembly.
“And people are concerned about the all-season road coming into Whatì. A lot of healing needs to be done,” she said.
As a fluent Tłı̨chǫ speaker, she is ready to use her language when giving speeches in the assembly.
Weyallon Armstrong’s first sitting as an MLA will be on Oct. 14, when the assembly returns after the summer break.