The federal election Monday was historic for Canada’s First Nations, which saw 10 indigenous candidates elected to the House of Commons and saw higher voter turnout in largely aboriginal ridings.
Some of the notable wins included Liberal candidates Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who beat out long-time NDP MP Pat Martin inner-city riding of Winnipeg Centre, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, a regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who took the riding of Vancouver-Granville.
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Shane Gottfriedson, the regional chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations, said the new Liberal government is a “breath of fresh air.”
“When you look at the last ten years our programs and services have been cut and slashed,” Gottfriedson told Global News Tuesday. “The Liberals bring a new breath of fresh air to looking at reconciliation and a new relationship with First Nations from coast-to-coast-to-coast. What an exciting time for Canada and for First Nations leadership across the country.”
“Over the last ten years we have been faced with a very non-committed government to address a number of social determinants of our First Nations.”
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Chiefs in the tidings of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, in Manitoba’s north, said turnout was up by more than 11,000 voters — an increase of 20 per cent from 2011. On the Manitoba-Ontario boundary turnout was up in 40 First Nations within the riding of Kenora, according to Chief Erwin Redsky of the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called it “a great day.”
“I feel a lot of relief from the years of very purposeful oppression that was brought forward from the previous government,” Nepinak said.
“Mr. Harper, when he was prime minister, awoke a sleeping giant in our people. That giant is awake and the new Liberal majority government is going to have to deal with a giant in the indigenous people of these lands.”
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Several high-profile Conservatives were ousted in the election; including former ministers Joe Oliver, Chris Alexander, Leona Aglukkaq, Julian Fantino and Aboriginal Affairs Ministers Bernard Valcourt who lost his New Brunswick seat to Liberal candidate René Arseneault.
In the 42nd general election there were a record number of indigenous candidates on the ballot. Here is a look at the 10 who were elected and will represent constituents from British Columbia, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador:
Vance Badawey – Niagara Centre, Ont.Yvonne Jones – LabradorMichael McLeod – Northwest TerritoriesRobert-Falcon Ouellette – Winnipeg Centre, Man.Don Rusnak – Thunder Bay-Rainy River, Ont.Jody Wilson-Raybould – Vancouver Granville, B.C.Dan Vandal – Saint Boniface-Saint Vital, Man.Hunter Tootoo – Nunavut
Georgina Jolibois – Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, Sask.Romeo Saganash – Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik–Eeyou, Que.
Working with the Liberals
Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau, who led the Liberals to a majority Monday night, has pledged a “nation-to-nation” relationship with the country’s First Nations communities.
Among one of the most pressing issues cited by the Assembly of First Nations is an inquiry into the more than 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women. Trudeau has also promised $515 million a year to funding for First Nations education, rising to a total of $2.6 billion and another $500 million over three years for education infrastructure.
*With a file from the Canadian Press