Serpent River’s Lorraine Rekmans is Running for the Green Party in the Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes Riding in Eastern Ontario. | Image Source: anishinabeknews.ca
A former Anishinabek News editor originally from Serpent River First Nation is running for the Green Party in the Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes riding. “This party has a value system that is closest to my traditional values,” says Lorraine Rekmans, the 52-year-old Indigenous Affairs critic in the Green Party Shadow Cabinet.
“We believe that we have to live within our means. So you can’t take more from the planet than the planet can sustain. We have to invest in repairing the ecological damage that was done.” Rekmans also wants to help guide the dialogue on Aboriginal issues in Parliament. “It’s a test of my personal strength as a grandmother,” Rekmans says, “to stand up for what I believe in and not be afraid.”
Rekmans studied journalism at Canadore College in North Bay before pursuing a career in journalism and the not-for-profit sector. As a former executive director of the National Aboriginal Forestry Association, she worked on national and international forest policy, including as co-chair of an international dialogue on forestry at the UN Forum on Forests and helping to organize the World Forestry Congress at Quebec City.
“I am also a small business owner with my husband,” Rekmans says. “We own a three-bay garage in Kemptville. You learn a lot about business by being in business.”
Rekmans says the reaction to her campaign has been positive. “I am going to be the first Indigenous woman on the ballot in the history of this riding,” Rekmans says, noting she previously ran for the Green Party in 2008 and 2011 in the Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing riding. “I’m actually getting a good response in this riding. I am going to be addressing the Congress of Aboriginal People next week (in Gatineau). They are the urban Aboriginal community.” Rekmans says the Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes riding does not have a large Indigenous population.
“But I believe as a member of Parliament, I can bring the voice of an Indigenous woman into Parliament into every discussion,” Rekmans says. “I believe we need more women in Parliament and we need more Indigenous people at the table.”
Rekmans was the first non-chief, Indigenous woman to run for office with the Chiefs of Ontario. “I was out on the first ballot but I got to stand,” Rekmans says. In her role as the Indigenous Affairs critic, Rekmans monitors the situation in Indigenous communities and works on policies to respond to crises.
“As a party, we are committed to a Nations-to-Nation dialogue,” Rekmans says. “We were one of the first parties to make that statement publicly, and we support the inherent right to self government. We recognize the distinct nations and languages — there are many, it’s not one group.”
Rekmans says First Nation issues are on the Green Party platform, including clean drinking water and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“We are going to remove the two per cent funding cap on education and put education funding on par with the rest of Canada,” Rekmans says. “We are committed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations to start looking at healing that trauma. Healing is fundamental, we have to deal with healing trauma and then work towards reconciliation.”
Rekmans says the Green Party is also focused on protecting the environment.