Posts tagged ‘Liberal Party of Canada’

Finally, a reason for First Nations people to vote.


Isaac Jacobs casts his ballot in 1962. First Nations were only given the right to vote in Canada in 1960.

Now is our time, Canada. Now is our time, Anishinaabeg!

Today, Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada announced a stunning and game-changing set of reforms to Canada’s election and parliamentary processes. The aim is to restore confidence in federal political processes, fairness in how governments are formed and transparency in how Canada’s affairs are governed.

If the Liberals win the election this fall, Justin Trudeau stated that this would be the last federal election to be held under the “first-past-the-post” electoral system.

This broken system makes it possible for a party to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons with less than 40 per cent of the national vote.

Finally, there seems to be a real commitment to reforming the election process and exploring proportional representation. This will effectively put an end to the first-past-the-post system and make every vote count when it comes to electing Members of Parliament (MPs) and forming representative governments.

I’ve been a long-time advocate for election reform and proportional representation… but not for the reasons that most people have.

First Nations people have long felt unrepresented by Canada’s mainstream election process. Our vote, although key in some swing ridings across the country, often don’t amount to any type of representation of our voice, perspective and issues. Some First Nations communities reject federal and provincial elections completely as a means of asserting their sovereignty. Many of our people have completely given up and have become disillusioned with these processes.

As a result, the vast majority of voting-age First Nations men and women simply do not exercise their right to vote.

Under a proportional representation system, First Nations people may finally have a reason to vote. It may give us all a new rationale to explore when it comes to participating in the federal election.

Over the years, First Nations have tried on several occasions to create an indigenous political party to represent our unique interests. Under the first-past-the-post system, a vote for a First Nation party amounted to a wasted vote – a protest vote of a fringe party and fringe candidates. We’re not the same as a Libertarian, Rhinoceros, Communist or Marijuana Party.

The idea of a First Nation party in Canada is incredibly important to us. Having a leader, candidates and elected members with our voice, that understand and share our perspective is important to us.

We are a founding nation within Canada. It’s time for our voice to be heard in Parliament.

Under proportional representation, a First Nations party, with a full slate of candidates, with even one per cent of the vote, could theoretically obtain a seat in Parliament.

That’s right! Our own seat in the House of Commons. Not a set-aside seat (although that is important too) but someone who we actually elect during a general election, to sit in office as our Member of Parliament.

Grass roots indigenous people, with the support of the Chiefs, Aboriginal organizations and organizations such as Fair Vote Canada, need to stand up and press for true and fair representation for First Nations people in Canada. We need to be represented in the House of Commons with our own members, our own voice, by our own people.

Justin Trudeau has committed to appointing an all-party committee to study proportional representation and bringing viable options to the House of Commons. The time for action and raising awareness is now. The opportunity for proportional representation may finally be within reach.

Don’t get be wrong, I’m a true, red Liberal. That’s been the case because the Liberal Party of Canada has been a voice for me through the Aboriginal People’s Commission, the Aboriginal Caucus, and our great history of Aboriginal MPs and candidates.

However, if presented with an option for a system that will lead to true representation of First Nations people, that’s something I can support. That’s something that a lot of my Liberal colleagues can support too.

Indigenous policy ideas, committee representation and a voice in the House of Commons – it only makes sense that all First Nations people consider what proportional representation may mean to the future of indigenous people within Confederation.

Day 36: Why I’m Voting Liberal

We have, more or less, four choices this election:

You have the status quo, a Conservative party.  I need to continue to stress that for First Nations, a Conservative government is really a non-starter.  They don’t have OUR best interests in mind.  In fact, a Conservative majority could spell an end to our nation-to-nation relationship as our Aboriginal and Treaty rights would be cast aside in favour of ignorant, anti-native policies.

You have the NDP.  They may seem like a good choice, especially for First Nations.  But the reality is that they support every social cause in Canada!!  Take it from me, in my experience the NDP have never said no to me or anyone.  Many also forget the fact that the NDP supported the Conservatives in killing the largest single government investment in First Nations history.  Layton also supported the Conservatives in killing a massive investment in an indigenous languages strategy.  You may also consider that voting NDP may split the centre-left vote and result in a Harper majority.  A vote for Jack Layton, may very well mean a vote for Stephen Harper.  Also, the NDP economic policies are not realistic.  For example, Jack Layton says he will “hire” 1,200 doctors and 6,000 nurses for $25 million per year.  The reality is this amounts to an annual salary of $3,472 per year!!  Ridiculous.  The NDP have absolutely no experience in fiscal policy or in government.  The NDP is amateur-hour, folks.

You have the Green Party. Once  again, they are supportive of issues near and dear to our hearts as First Nations.  But once again, they further split the centre-left vote.  Thankfully, a vote for the Green Party is a vote for no-one.  They have absolutely no chance of electing a single MP, much less a caucus in Ottawa.  The Greens are a no-go.

Finally, you have the Liberal party.  Their Aboriginal platform was developed for, and by First Nations people.  Their Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission consist of people like you and me.  We have more Aboriginal candidates running than any other party.  The Liberals are really the only feasible alternative to the Conservative government, as it would be practically impossible for the NDP to increase their results by 100 seats.  The Liberal platform focusses on Aboriginal education, which is First Nation’s top priority.  The Liberal platform focusses on families – another top priority.  The Liberal platform focusses on the environment, and in particular the protection of water – a top priority for Anishinaabe kwewag.  Finally, the Liberal economic platform is solid and is based on experience.  The Liberal party has experience in government and are in the best position to lead Canada away from the Conservative nightmare.

My choice is easy.  That’s why I’m voting Liberal on May 2.

Day 33: Rise Up For Canada Rally Tonight

I’m sending you my personal invitation to attend the “Rise Up For Canada” rally tonight in the Downsview area of Toronto. It is sure to be the largest campaign event in the election campaign thus far.

It will include all the top Liberal candidates in the GTA including our Leader Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Ken Dryden, Martha Hall-Finlay, and special guest, The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien.

Wednesday, April 27 · 7:30pm – 10:30pm

Montecassino Hotel, 3710 Chesswood, Toronto, Ontario

I know Jean Chrétien isn’t a hero to most Anishinaabeg, myself included. After all, he was the Minister that brought forward the 1969 White Paper, and nearly, the First Nations Governance Act. That’s a lot to overlook for many First Nations people.

The Liberals eventually abandoned the White Paper, and the Trudeau government enshrined Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in the Constitution.

The Liberals also eventually abandoned the First Nations Governance Act, in favour of a more collaborate approach with First Nations under a Paul Martin government.

However, the Chrétien government did attempt to develop a new relationship with First Nations. A lot of that has to do with the work of former National Chief Phil Fontaine during his first term. Many don’t realize that the Chrétien government made an official apology to First Nations over the residential schools in 1997. They responded by creating the Aboriginal Healing Foundation a year later. In fact, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, may have been finally signed off by the Harper government, but it was established and well underway under the Paul Martin government.

The Chrétien government was best known for slaying a massive deficit. In 1997, the government had to make difficult decisions, including limiting growth of First Nations spending. Many erroneously call this the “establishment of the 2 per cent cap”. But the real story was there was government-wide freeze. The fact was that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada was the only government department permitted 2 per cent growth every year, in order to address the needs of communities. During those tough fiscal years, the 2 per “cap” was really a positive thing.

Just as Paul Martin was going to lift the cap and provide the single largest investment in First Nations history, the NDP and the Conservatives killed the Kelowna Accord by defeating the Martin government.

The biggest reason that First Nations people might give Chrétien his due, is he is the Elder statesman of the Liberal party. I’m happy to provide my respect to this Elder whose heart, I feel, was always in the right place.

I’m definitely more of a Paul Martin guy. After all, he was the engineer of the Liberal fiscal policy that eliminated a massive government deficit in the 1990s and early 2000s. He truly believes in First Nations social justice. To this day, puts his money where his mouth is by supporting so many worthwhile First Nations initiatives.

I look forward to seeing you at the Rise Up For Canada rally tonight.