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Opinion

Indigenous vote should have big influence in next election

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A few weeks ago, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who said the AFN influenced the 2015 parties’ policies, publicly  called on members to once again lobby all political parties to influence campaign platforms before the October federal election. “With the federal election coming, I want to say now the importance of voting and the importance of influencing all party platforms,” Mr. Bellegarde declared in his speech at the AFN’s 40th annual general assembly in Fredericton on July 23.

Mr. Bellegarde said some 61.5 per cent of the eligible First Nations vote did vote in the 2015 election and he said he hopes that number will increase in 2019, according to media reports. He also said the AFN doesn’t tell people who to vote for, but said First Nations should look at the platforms of all the parties and particularly at which has the most progressive one. “If you want to become prime minister or a Member of Parliament, you better listen to our people and our concerns, because we vote now and have impact. That’s what’s going to happen in October. We’re not going to be pushed to the side anymore,” Mr. Bellegarde said.

Mr. Bellegarde said the AFN’s top priority is climate change, which he called “climate destruction,” followed by restorative justice. “Why are there so many First Nations people in jail?” he asked. “There’s not only common law and civil law recognized in Canada. There’s got to be room for First Nations’ law and natural law—Creator’s law.”

“If you want to become prime minister or Member of Parliament, you better listen to our people and our concerns, because we vote now and have impact. That’s what’s happening in October. We’re not going to be pushed to the side anymore,” he said.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, meanwhile, also said last week that climate change is a top issue and said he hopes the political parties stop fighting about the carbon tax, and look at the real-life “drastic” effects of climate change on the North.

“People should be very concerned about the reality of the Canadian Arctic and the fact that it is a part of Canada. Just because somebody might not see massive changes in their backyard today doesn’t necessarily mean that there shouldn’t be urgent concern from all Canadians about the Arctic and the Inuit port of the climate discussion,” he told The Canadian Press.

We’re at a critical point in our history, as a country and in the world, and the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis are absolutely right to pressure political parties on these key public policy issues. We need bold leadership on climate change, but we also need bold leadership on restorative justice, on acting on the recommendations from the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, and on finally changing the relationship between the Crown and First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

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