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"Everyone should have a voice, everyone's equal". Gender, decision-making and environmental policy in the Canadian Arctic

Kafarowski, Joanna



Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers De La Femme



Working in co-operation with government representatives, members of Hunters and Trappers Organizations/ Committees are influenced by traditional knowledge and Western science. Despite the fact that Inuit women are actively engaged in fishing and hunting both directly and indirectly, they are largely absent from the boards of these hunters and trappers groups. As pointed out by Louise Grenier, although most literature readily acknowledges that Indigenous women's and men's roles and responsibilities in the community vary, the fact that these roles engender different knowledge(s) and that women's and men's traditional knowledge is distinct and complementary, is not. Women's and men's unique experience and understanding of their world is, instead, conflated into one traditional knowledge system- a knowledge system that too often privileges the male perspective (see Zweifel). This results in critical natural resource decisions and policies that are made without the substantive input of women (see [Maureen Reed] and Mitchell). In both Nunavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, wildlife management groups were established as the result of land claims agreements. Following the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, 27 Hunters and Trappers Organizations and three Regional Wildlife Organizations (RWOs)3 were formed in Nunavut. Each community established its own Hunters and Trappers Organization to which members are elected. HTOs are primarily responsible for regulating harvesting practices and allocating and enforcing quotas at the community level while RWOs carry out similar tasks at the regional level. Both bodies are also responsible for implementing and enforcing relevant policies developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans; Environment Canada; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and other federal government departments. The board of RWOs is comprised of representatives from community HTOs. Each of the Regional Wildlife Organizations appoints one member to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board which is the co-management board made up of appointees from the territorial and federal governments and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.4 The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board has extensive discretionary powers related to the management and protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and the direction of wildlife research. A clear path exists for Inuit who wish to become involved in decision and policy-making processes in wildlife management in Canada's Arctic. It is equally clear that this path is not yet open for women. As has been demonstrated, women are not well represented on boards at the community level and this lack of representation is apparent at both the regional and territorial levels. Women's lack of representation on hunters and trapper boards directly impacts on their lack of representation on co-management boards including the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and the Inuvialuit Game Council. This results in a marginalization of women's knowledge and perspectives and a subsequent narrowing of the wildlife management agenda. Additionally, the need to redress gender imbalance in these organizations has not been identified by the communities themselves. Until this happens, Inuit women in these territories will continue to be largely excluded from direct involvement in decision and policy-making processes in wildlife management.

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