NIPISSING FIRST NATION (September 29, 2008) – In supporting the National Chief’s “National Day of Political Action”, First Peoples Vote is encouraging youth and elders to vote and continue to raise their issues with political candidates during the course of the election.
“We are encouraging all sectors of our communities to speak out, not only by using their voices in this campaign, but by using their vote,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage of the Anishinabek Nation, who developed the First Peoples Vote initiative. “We especially want our youth and elders to be vocal throughout the campaign and use the power of their votes strategically.”
Across Canada, there are more than 115,000 First Nations youth (aged 18-30) of voting age. Education opportunities, skills development and training continue to be their primary concern, an issue that Grand Council Chief Beaucage would like to see partially addressed by a renewal of the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreement (AHRDA).
“Our young people are the fastest-growing demographic in Canada,” said Beaucage, “so Canada needs to renew AHRDA with a greater level of investment in education, training, access and opportunities.”
“Providing First Nations youth with the opportunity to fully participate in the skilled workforce is an investment in Canada’s future,” the Grand Council Chief said. “Our youth are a vast, untapped source of young, willing and able workers.”
Grand Council Chief Beaucage is encouraging youth to contact “Broadcasting Consortium” which is coordinating the Oct. 1-2 televised debates by national party leaders to ensure their issues are on the agenda.
An immediate election-related concern for First Nations elders is the requirement to produce official identification at the polling stations. Election Canada regulations currently require either a government-issued photo ID – such as a driver’s license – two original pieces of ID (health card, utility bills, etc.) or a sworn statement from another elector.
“In many cases our elders don’t have government-issued ID or utility bills in their names,” said Beaucage. “I’m concerned because it is just these types of barriers that prevent our people from participating in the election.”
First Nations elders also want to make the state of indigenous languages a significant election issue. It is estimated that only three languages: Ojibwe (Anishinaabemowin), Cree, Inuktituit and will survive due to lack of fluent speakers and learning opportunities. In 2006, the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council, under the advice of Elders, Women and Youth, officially declared that Anishinabemowin would be the official language of the Anishinabek Nation and its 42-member First Nations.
“Our elders have told us to raise the profile of our language into the mainstream of Canadian society,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “There is no better way to achieve this then to make this an election issue.”
The Anishinabek Nation continues to urge the Government of Canada to support the establishment of the Anishinabek Immersion Language Institute – an innovative program that will improve Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) language retention.
The Assembly of First Nations named September 29 a National Day of Political Action in First Nation communities. First Nation communities are encouraged to participate in a variety of political activities such as engaging with their citizens and local candidates, hosting community meetings and town halls, discuss platforms with each other, and other political events so that First Nation citizens can make an informed choice in the federal election. This initiative is also aimed at soliciting a clear and robust First Nations platform from each political party.
First Peoples Vote and FirstPeoplesVote.com is a non-partisan initiative that encourages First Peoples’ (First Nation, Métis and Inuit) participation in general elections, provides information to voters on issues that are important to First Peoples’ governments, provides information from the mainstream political parties, provides resources to communities and provides an online discussion forum to exchange opinions and ideas.
The initiative was established by the Anishinabek Nation-Union of Ontario Indians under the leadership of Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.