Trisha Cowie is the Liberal Candidate Running for Parry Sound-Muskoka | Image Source: trishacowie.liberal.ca
Today is election day in Canada and this year there are 49 Indigenous politicians running for office (Go vote!). So far in our election coverage MUSKRAT Magazine has presented Indigenous candidates running for the NDP and Green parties. Liberal candidate and lawyer, Trisha Cowie from Hiawatha First Nation is running against Tony Clement in the conservative stronghold to represent the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka- a riding also home to seven First Nations communities looking for change.
Erica Commanda from MUSKRAT Magazine talked with Trisha Cowie about her campaign and Indigenous issues facing Canada and our communities.
MM: Why are you getting into politics now?
TC: A lot of people are disenchanted with politics in Canada. I certainly was and wanted to do something about it. We have to change the way that we do politics in Canada, we need to think more positively. I think that I can contribute to that.
MM: Why did you choose to get involved the Liberal Party?
TC: I’m a lawyer and I have my own law firm. I started my career fighting for First Nations rights and treaty rights. I’ve always been an advocate for the underdog. I think that the Liberal Party platform represents a lot of my values. I can align myself with the Liberal Party Platform on a number of levels, in particularly with their First Nations platform.
MM: During the national debates Indigenous issues were not brought into the discussion. What will happen if mainstream politics continues to ignore these issues and what kind of benefits will addressing these issues bring to Canada as a whole?
TC: The National debates certainly did not go into Indigenous issues. On a local level it came up pretty regularly, particularly with the missing and murdered Indigenous women issue. I’ve been able to address it on a local level, because Parry Sound-Muskoka has seven First Nations communities. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are really ashamed of the history that we have and the treatment of First Nations communities.
Most people seem to be prepared to take on the challenge of changing that and closing the gap. Working towards that will benefit Canada because First Nations issues aren’t just First Nations issues, they’re Canadian issues. If we’re not doing well in our communities then Canada isn’t thriving the way that it should be. We have a significant power base that really needs to be tapped into. We have a lot of resources and a lot of talent, it’s time to change the negative rhetoric that has historically been against us.
MM: Out of the 94 recommendations made by the TRC, which one would you implement and why?
TC: There’s certainly many of them I think would need to be enforced, but the one that comes to mind as most important, because it’s come up on so many doorsteps, is the inquiry into our missing and murdered Indigenous women. That is at the forefront of things that needs to be addressed and the Liberal Party of Canada would immediately implement the inquiry.
MM: There are 49 Indigenous candidates running in this election. In what ways do you think Indigenous leadership can offer different approaches to mainstream politics?
TC: Having that many candidates involved is hugely important. I think that it shows the enthusiasm that people in our community have and that the importance of getting involved is being recognized. The contributions that we can make are really important as Indigenous people. I think there will be more collaborations. We have new ideas. We live the life where we have to find solutions to really important challenges and have shown through adversity that we can overcome a lot of those challenges with very little resources. We have a lot of strengths and certainly have a lot to offer.
MM: If elected, how will the Liberal government improve their relations with First Nations, Metis and Inuit people?
TC: The most important part of the Liberal platform is that we’re going to work with Indigenous communities on a Nation to Nation basis. I think that’s really important. It’s establishing the foundation for respect and beginning a conversation on the same principles. Right now we don’t even have that foundation. We don’t even have a government that will have a conversation with us as equals. I think that’s probably the most important part, to respect us as Nations and to treat us such.