Thank you so much.
I'd like to thank our panellists for being here and thank the members of the audience for coming out today.
It's my first time here in Iqaluit and I'm delighted to be here in Mr. Tootoo's riding. I would like to convey my condolences on the passing of your former mayor, Mayor Pearson.
Unfortunately the senator has left, but I'm sure you'll all have some feedback for me. He was talking about the culture here of consulting Canadians through plebiscites and said that since passing the Plebiscites Act in 1974, you've had four plebiscites. The 1982 division plebiscite had a participation rate of 52.99%, so that's 53% of the population.
You had a little more success in the 1992 and 1995 plebiscites. One that really stuck out is the 1997 equal representation plebiscite, where you only had approximately 39% of the population participate on such an important question as whether or not to have gender parity in your territorial government. As a couple of witnesses say, there is the importance of taking our time and doing this right, and in some research, it is said that the plebiscite of 1997 was rushed, that folks didn't have the right information, that folks didn't feel engaged, and that there was some dirty politicking, dirty campaigning, happening around that time.
It's close to 20 years since you had that referendum. My concern is whether we are rushing things in terms of trying to fit in a referendum. Are people engaged enough and are they educated enough in this process that we're not going to set ourselves up for failure? I don't want to say that your 1997 referendum was a failure, but 39% participation is not so great.
I'd like to get your feedback on that. What can we be doing, if we are going to go that route, to make sure that we are setting ourselves up for success rather than failure?