Michael Ignatieff is visiting Yellowknife this week, and I was able to attend his reception this morning at the Northern Frontier Visitor Centre along with a whole crowd of bustling people. He arrived a little late, and I’d heard grumblings within the crowd that the location of the reception had shifted. I’d seen it on facebook saying that it was at the visitor’s centre, so I hadn’t done the running around that others had.
Before going in to start his address he introduced himself through the crowd, and came across me talking with Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins.
In this picture you can see Ignatief with myself and Mary Lou Cherwaty, President of the NT Federation of Labour and former YK Education District 1 Trustee. You can probably also see Kevin O’Reilly in the background and Doug Ritchie in the picture above.
In his speech he spoke about the importance of stewardship of the north, climate change, self-determination for Northern governments and treaty resolution. He also spoke about the importance of resource development benefiting Northern people and being environmentally sustainable. He briefly mentioned a desire to eradicate Northern homelessness and the importance of developing infrastructure and housing.
He didn’t mention daycare.
He didn’t mention women’s economic independence.
He didn’t mention healthcare.
He didn’t really talk about any of the issues that are directly effecting the daily lives of women in the North. Women who experience higher rates of family violence, sexual assault, poverty and overcrowding than anywhere else in the country.
Following his address, the organizers made room for people to approach Michael directly with their questions, and when I approached him he assured me that having a national daycare strategy was certainly within his priorities and that he understood that daycare was a key part of getting women out of poverty and lessening their risk of becoming homeless or experiencing violence.
But if it was such a priority wouldn’t it be in his address? Aren’t women’s issues just as important as development, climate change, and all the rest of it?
I understand that the upcoming private members bill to scrap the Long Gun Registry is being touted as a women’s issue, but the Liberal Party should not be able to rely on one position on one bill to claim that they are female friendly. They have an obligation to address the multifaceted concerns of women throughout this country, and Northern Women need economic independence and security, they need secure places to live and raise their children, they need access to the labour force, and access to child care services, and they need to be able to feed themselves and their families.
Our country needs a national poverty reduction strategy, a national day care plan, and a national housing strategy. These are the things that I want to hear about at a public address.