Chiefs Urge Aboriginal People To Vote Against Harper Government

Assembly of First Nations national Chief Perry Bellegarde gives the keynote speech at the AFN's annual conference in Montreal on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Assembly of First Nations national Chief Perry Bellegarde gives the keynote speech at the AFN’s annual conference in Montreal on Tuesday, July 7, 2015.
(Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Globe and Mail

Chiefs across Canada are being urged to get their people into federal voting booths next fall with the aim of defeating the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The call on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), adds another dynamic to an already tight three-way race and offers incentive to opposition leaders to target at least part of their campaigns at aboriginal people – a demographic that has largely been considered inconsequential to the outcome of elections.

“This is a matter of national importance, and there should be no greater effort put forward by us in the coming weeks and into the coming months,” Derek Nepinak, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the crowd of several hundred.

Every indigenous leader has a responsibility to return to their community and ensure their youth are registered to cast a ballot on Oct. 19, Mr. Nepinak said. He urged the chiefs to persuade their communities to vote for the candidate – Liberal or New Democrat – with the best chance of defeating a Conservative.

“We all have the ability to cast a ballot to effect change in Ottawa,” he said. “We can mitigate the damages by voting for a different government in this upcoming election.”

First Nations leaders say they have the numbers to affect the outcome in 51 ridings. Traditionally, turnout among aboriginal people lags well behind that of the general population. Elections Canada says 45 per cent of people on reserves voted in 2011, but the chiefs say the actual turnout was much lower.

Many First Nations people also believe casting a ballot in a national election undermines their sovereignty and tarnishes the ideal of a nation-to-nation relationship between their community and the government of Canada. That has undoubtedly contributed to low participation rates.

But First Nations leaders say several factors could propel their communities to the polls this year.

The first is a mistrust of the Conservative government that has been simmering for years and has intensified since the last election. Chiefs complain about matters such as a lack of money for on-reserve education, a frustrating process for settling land claims, the government’s refusal to call an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and Mr. Harper’s reluctance to meet face-to-face.

Groups have been created, including one called Rally The First Nation Vote, with the intent of ousting the Conservatives.

“We can work towards getting the Harper government out, and having a new government that is willing to work with First Nations people on indigenous issues,” Quinn Meawasige, a member of the AFN youth council, told the gathering.

The second factor is what some chiefs describe as a growing empowerment of young indigenous people who are angered by the disparities between their standard of living and that of the rest of Canada, and whose numbers are increasing faster than the rate of the general population.

And the third is the rapid expansion of social media.

“Look what happened with Idle No More,” Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the AFN, told The Globe and Mail. “Because of social media, people are starting to talk. Look at the excitement of the youth. They are the ones that are really going to drive this.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says the Conservative government has introduced measures to improve the lives of aboriginal people, many of them aimed at positioning the First Nations to take full advantage of Canada’s economic prosperity. The Liberals and the New Democrats, he said, “favour irresponsible spending instead of concrete, achievable and necessary action.”

But native speakers at the three-day AFN meeting decried Conservative policies, from changes to the Canada Elections Act they say will make it more difficult for aboriginal people to vote, to reductions in environmental assessments, to anti-terrorism legislation that they say could affect their ability to engage in legitimate protest.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who addressed the assembly, promised a new era of respect for indigenous people. Both committed to increased consultation, improved language rights, a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women, more money for education and to attend future meetings of the AFN.

Change is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary, said Mr. Mulcair.

“We will never impose solutions from the top down,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Unlike other chiefs, Mr. Bellegarde does not openly lobby for the defeat of the Conservatives saying the AFN must remain staunchly non-partisan. But he does urge greater First Nations electoral participation.

“The important thing is we want to make a difference,” he said. “And, if anybody wants to get elected into government now, we are saying our vote is going to count this time around. Pay attention to us.”

Chiefs across Canada are being urged to get their people into federal voting booths next fall with the aim of defeating the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The call, which came on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), adds another dynamic to an already tight three-way race and offers an incentive to opposition leaders to target at least some of their campaign messages to aboriginal people – a demographic that has largely been considered inconsequential to the outcome of elections.

“This is a matter of national importance, and there should be no greater effort put forward by us in the coming weeks and into the coming months,” Derek Nepinak, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the crowd of several hundred.

Every chief has a responsibility to return to their community and ensure that their youth are registered to cast a ballot on Oct. 19, Mr. Nepinak said. He urged the chiefs to persuade their communities to vote strategically for the candidate – Liberal or New Democrat – who has the best chance of defeating a Conservative.

“We all have the ability to cast a ballot to effect change in Ottawa,” he said. “We can mitigate the damages by voting for a different government in this upcoming election.”

First Nations leaders say they have the numbers to affect the outcome in 51 ridings. Traditionally, the voter turnout among aboriginal people lags well behind that of the general population. Elections Canada says 45 per cent of people on reserves voted in the 2011 election, but even the chiefs say that is likely inflated and the actual turnout was much lower.

Many First Nations members believe casting a ballot in a national election undermines their own sovereignty and the ideal of a nation-to-nation relationship with the government of Canada. That has undoubtedly contributed to low participation rates.

But, this year, First Nations leaders say several factors could propel their communities to the polls.

The first is a simmering mistrust between the Conservative government and many indigenous people. The chiefs complain about matters as diverse as a lack of money for on-reserve education, a frustrating process for settling land claims, the government’s refusal to call an inquiry into the large numbers of murdered and missing aboriginal women, and Mr. Harper’s reluctance to meet face-to-face.

Groups have been created, including one called Rally The First Nation Vote, with the intent of ousting the Conservatives.

“We can work towards getting the Harper government out, and having a new government that is willing to work with First Nations people on indigenous issues,” Quinn Meawasige, a member of the AFN youth council told the gathering.

The second factor that could motivate the First Nations vote is what some chiefs describe as a growing empowerment among young First Nations people.

And the third is the rapid expansion of social media.

“Look what happened with Idle No More,” Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the AFN, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “Because of social media, people are starting to talk. Look at the excitement of the youth. They are the ones that are really going to drive this.”

Speaker after speaker took to the podium on opening day of the three-day meeting to decry Conservative policies, from changes to the Canada Elections Act they say will make it more difficult for aboriginal people to vote, to reductions in environmental assessments, to anti-terrorism legislation they say could affect their ability to engage in legitimate protest.

Those themes were echoed by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who were each given a half hour to make their pitch to the assembly. Both opposition leaders promised that the election of their party in the fall would usher in a new era of respect for Canada’s indigenous people.

Both committed to increased consultation with native people, improved language rights, a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women, more money for education, and their own presence at future meetings of the AFN.

Change is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary, Mr. Mulcair said.

“We will never impose solutions from the top down,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Unlike other chiefs, Mr. Bellegarde does not openly advocate for the defeat of the Conservatives, saying the AFN must remain non-partisan. But he is urging greater electoral participation.

“The important thing is we want to make a difference,” he said. “And, if anybody wants to get elected into government now, we are saying our vote is going to count this time around. Pay attention to us.”

Source: http://fw.to/8mibwtP

Advertisements

One thought on “Chiefs Urge Aboriginal People To Vote Against Harper Government

  1. Giftoftruth

    Reblogged this on Giftoftruth United and commented:
    Without prejudice, to the Elders,

    We, the People must stop playing the colonial slave-master game and stand strong in our treaties, charters and declarations and natural laws which are living laws and are superior to paper laws which are only for artificial entities;

    Such as the Two Row Wampum Treaty, also known as Guswhenta or Kaswhenta and as the Tawagonshi Agreement of 1613 or the Tawagonshi Treaty, is an agreement made between representatives of the Five Nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) and representatives of the Dutch government in 1613 in what is now upstate New York. The agreement is considered by the Haudenosaunee to be the basis of all of their subsequent treaties with European and North American governments, including the Covenant Chain treaty with the British in 1677 and the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States in 1794.

    In their own words: SUPREME COURT RULING – NO CORPORATE JURISDICTION OVER THE NATURAL MAN
    Supreme Court of the United States 1795, “Inasmuch as every government is an artificial person, an abstraction, and a creature of the mind only, a government can interface only with other artificial persons. The imaginary, having neither actuality nor substance, is foreclosed from creating and attaining parity with the tangible. The legal manifestation of this is that no government, as well as any law, agency, aspect, court, etc. can concern itself with anything other than corporate, artificial persons and the contracts between them.” S.C.R. 1795, (3 U.S. 54; 1 L.Ed. 57; 3 Dall. 54),

    Man’s law changes with his understanding of man. Only the laws of the spirit remain always the same. – Crow

    Lakota Instructions for Living:

    Friend do it this way – that is,
    whatever you do in life,
    do the very best you can
    with both your heart and mind.

    And if you do it that way,
    the Power Of The Universe
    will come to your assistance,
    if your heart and mind are in Unity.

    When one sits in the Hoop Of The People,
    one must be responsible because
    All of Creation is related.
    And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
    And the honor of one is the honor of all.
    And whatever we do affects everything in the universe.

    If you do it that way – that is,
    if you truly join your heart and mind
    as One – whatever you ask for,
    that’s the Way It’s Going To Be.

    Passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman

    Mitakuye oya chin

    Like

Comments are closed.