Monday, October 1, 2007 | 10:18 AM ET
CBC News
A group representing some Ontario First Nations communities is encouraging aboriginal people to vote in the upcoming provincial election even though other First Nations leaders argue voting provincially will undermine aboriginal self-government.

The Anishinabek Nation, which represents 42 aboriginal communities in the province, says that despite the traditional reluctance of First Nations people to vote, taking part in the Oct. 10 election would benefit aboriginal people.

“We have to address land claims and we have to address the previous treatment of us as residential school victims,” said spokesman Bob Goulais. “But unless you’re casting your ballot, we’re not going to have that voice.”

Goulais added that aboriginal people could get a direct say in government by putting together a First Nations Party of Ontario in a future election.

But Don Maracle, chief of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, thinks it’s a bad idea for First Nations people to vote.

“Voting in the Canadian or provincial election is compromising our nationhood within our own nation,” he said. “We have a different relation with the government than other Canadians do.”

He added that many people on the reserve believe voting is an attempt by governments to assimilate them into Canadian society.

In fact, the band council for his community has passed a motion that prevents candidates from even putting campaign signs along roadways within their territory.

And they’re not alone in that view, Maracle said.

The Mohawks are part of the Iroquois Confederacy, an alliance of many First Nations communities including Akwasasne, Six Nations and Kahnawake, many of whom take a similar stance on elections.

Maracle disagrees that voting would give First Nations people more of a voice in provincial or federal government on issues such as land claims, even if aboriginals start their own political party.

“I do not believe we will ever have a sufficient voice in the House of Commons to affect mainstream thinking in relation to aboriginal issues,” he said.