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Young women take control

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 19/05) - Young women have grabbed the reins of power in two of Nunavut's hamlets with narrow victories.

Michelle Gillis, 26, defeated incumbent mayor Terry McCallum by just seven votes in Cambridge Bay.

In Arctic Bay, Darlene Willie, 25, fended off the challenge of Andrew Taqtu by just one vote.

"I was shaking. If just one of my supporters didn't vote, it would have been a tie," said Willie.

"I think there is a bit of tension in the community because it was so tight. There was a good turnout and people wanted it to count," said Gillis.

These two women want to help revitalize their communities.

Gillis and Willie see eye to eye on another point. They both want mining companies to help support their communities.

"I want to negotiate with the Jackson Inlet expansion. They've been coming here quite a few years and they leave, with only two or three employees from Arctic Bay. That isn't fair," said Willie.

"There are a lot of mining companies in the community and they should be putting back into the community," said Gillis.

The more kids involved in recreation, the fewer problems they cause. Both new mayors want more recreation planned and funded.

"Our arena hasn't opened early enough. It used to open in late October and now it opens after Christmas. That's not very good for the hockey players," said Willie.

"People here have stressed infrastructure, a pool, an arena (as issues)," said Gillis.

Gillis said she thinks a liquor store is needed in Cambridge Bay, and will be lobbying for it. "There is a lot of bootlegging here because of the red tape (to import alcohol). Local liquor sales could help with that," said Gillis.

Gillis works with the Nunavut Housing Corporation. She doesn't see a problem when she has to lobby her employer for her community.

"I clearly know the Conflict of Interest Act and there are other people on council who can act in my place," said Gillis.

As for Willie and the government, she wants, "Arctic Bay to be carved in their hearts. They'll get to know my name. I want Arctic Bay up to the level of the rest of the communities in Nunavut," said Willie.

Gillis thinks unhappiness with the status quo helped her defeat McCallum.

"People have to be treated like human beings. People were being ignored," she said.

In Cape Dorset, Fred Schell was elected mayor. He is neither young nor a woman, but his platform is similar to his young female counterparts.

He also credits a desire for change as the reason he defeated the incumbent mayor and four other candidates. Schell received 155 votes, incumbent Matthew Jaw received 37 votes.

Schell has a simple wish for his community.

"We need to create some new jobs here and a couple of things for the kids," said Schell, a heavy construction contractor who has lived in Cape Dorset for 16 years.

"We need a few more full-time local jobs. There is a push to get the sewage lagoon. Nobody has pushed that in a while," said Schell.

When it comes to getting more from the government in Iqaluit, Schell is ready to lobby. "They have been hearing from me and they will be hearing from me."

- See election results page 14-15