An image of a North American Indigenous man from the Idle No More movement.| Image source: huffingtonpost.ca
Today, October 19, 2015 Indigenous voters will go to the polls to elect a change in government that can bring about a nation to nation relationship; close the poverty and education gap; and take meaningful steps towards reconciliation.
All of the federal parties, except for the Conservative government, pledge to lift the 2% funding cap, implement the TRC recommendations and the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights, and launch an inquiry into the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls issue.
On May 3, 2011 the Conservatives won a majority government, extending the reign of the Harper regime for another four years. Since then we have seen 59% in funding cuts to First Nations organizations, that’s about $60 million dollars; the protection of pristine lakes diminish from 2.5 million to just 159; the muzzling of scientists; and the taking away of our privacy rights with the passing of Bill C-51. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the negative impacts the Harper government has had on Indigenous communities and Canadians.
Canadians and First Nations appear fed up and are looking for a change as they go to the polls to elect Canada’s 42nd parliament TODAY, October 19, 2015. The push for change is demonstrated in this 42nd federal election whereby there is a 23% increase in Indigenous candidates running for office with representation in all four federal parties. This increase in activity is proof that, even after surviving generations of cultural genocide and forced assimilation, Indigenous people are a strong force to be reckoned with and are actively working to strengthen rights and sovereignty by increasing Indigenous voices within the mainstream political system.
MUSKRAT Magazine shines a spotlight on four star Indigenous candidates representing each federal party and what their biggest election promises are for Indigenous people.
1. Aaron Paquette – Metis/Cree
New Democratic Party, Edmonton Manning
Aaron Paquette is looking to get elected in this newly created riding as their NDP representative that stands right in the middle of a Conservative stronghold. Paquette is an artist, educator and entrepreneur that does a lot of work within the community. The NDP has the largest Indigenous representation with 22 candidates running in this election and the AFN promotes their platform as having the most comprehensive responses to First Nations issues.
Biggest election promises: $1.8 billion in new funding in four years and $4.8 billion in eight years for First Nations education; $375 million to improve clean water and sanitation facilities for Indigenous communities.
2. Robert Falcon-Ouellette – Cree
Liberal Party of Canada, Winnipeg Centre
Falcon-Ouellette is up against longtime NDP MP Pat Martin after losing his mayoral bid in 2014. He gained notoriety recently for his sarcastic press release regarding Martin’s place of residency. During the campaign Martin was accused of not residing full time in the area. Falcon-Ouellette served in the Canadian military for 19 years and received a PHD from Université Laval. The Liberal Party is leading in the polls and are looking to form a minority government. The AFN has promoted their Indigenous platform as having the second most comprehensive responses to First Nations issues after the NDP.
Biggest election promises: Improving First Nations education with $515 million in extra funding for k-12 First Nations schools, $500 million in education infrastructure over five years, $50 million for post-secondary education support, creating “nation-to-nation” talks to close the gap in First Nations education, implement the Kelowna Accord.
3. Lorraine Rekmans – Algonquin
Green Party, Leeds, Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes
Rekmans is the first Indigenous candidate to run for election in this riding. The seasoned politician uses her journalism background to advocate for environmental and social justice issues. The Green Party has a stronger standing than the Conservative government in the AFN report on comprehensive responses to First Nations issues, only lacking in language revitalization and sharing and equitable funding.
Biggest election promises: Restore the $5.1 billion commitment and specifics of the Kelowna Accord, a series of agreements aimed at improving the education, employment, and living conditions of Indigenous peoples and if pushed to, remove the Indian Act.
4. Peter Penashue – Innu
Conservative Party of Canada, Labrador
After winning the election in 2011, Penashue resigned in 2013 over allegations of irregularities in campaign spending and ran in the following by-election to lose his seat to Yvonne Jones from the Liberal Party. When the AFN graded the party’s platform on Indigenous rights they received the weakest standings.
Biggest election promises: $500 million to renovate and build schools and $200 million for First Nations education and schools.