I don’t have a lot of thoughts on the federal election today.  It was good to see Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff (Liberal, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) supporting his Toronto-area candidates.  He spent some time with Christine Innes (Liberal, Trinity-Spadina) and his own riding before travelling to Mississauga for the GTA campaign launch this evening.

I do want to pick up on something that Cynthia Wesley-Esquimeaux (Liberal, York-Simcoe) tweeted earlier today.  We both are advocating for First Nations and Métis people to play a greater role in the election.  Sure we can’t all be a candidate, or even volunteer or attend a campaign rally.  However, we call all do some research on the issues and make an informed decision at the ballot box.  Not only is it our right to vote, as a democratic society, it is our duty.

But there are a lot of historical reasons why First Nations people don’t vote.  It wasn’t until March 31, 1960 that First Nations were granted the right to vote.  Not only were our people disenfranchised, our parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles were faced with outright discrimination and made to feel inferior to non-native people.  We didn’t feel like we were a part of Canada.  Today, many communities continue to abstain from voting.

However, more and more, Aboriginal Canadians are taking part in the process.  And there are plenty of strategic reasons for doing so.

First Peoples represent a significant balance of power in 60 federal ridings across Canada.  In these riding, they account for more than 5 per cent of eligible voters. Ten of those “swing-vote’ ridings are in Ontario.  Some key ridings include Parry Sound-Muskoka, Thunder Bay-Superior North, Simcoe North, Peterborough, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Nickel Belt and Sault Ste. Marie.

First Nations people can be a significant factor in each of these ridings.  Even more so if our people got together to raise their issues and take a vocal role in the election.  Speak up and be heard and hold your candidates to account.

Today, Tony Belcourt, esteemed past-President of the Metis Nation of Ontario, spoke to Michael Ignatieff today.  Tony used the opportunity to raise an important message:

“I whispered in his ear: Michael, We don’t need more jails that are already filled with Aboriginal women. We need to use that money to get them out of there and keep them out!” “Yeah, he said, let’s get them out of there!”. Imagine having that kind of a discussion with Mr. Harper… not.”

Like Tony, we all need to raise the issues and speak to the candidates.  If there are able to support your issues, vote for them.  If not – move on and support those candidates and parties who will listen and take action.

Have a great evening, folks.  I’m late for Dr. House.