As Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made a campaign-style stop in Winnipeg this week, a local non-partisan group that encourages indigenous people to vote says more aboriginal people in the city are becoming more engaged in politics.
Trudeau was joined by former Winnipeg mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette and other local Liberal candidates on the Taché Promenade, in the city's St. Boniface area, as he kicked off the second day of his two-day visit on Thursday morning.
Among other things, Trudeau reiterated his party's commitment to a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women if it forms government.
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Trudeau told the crowd that it's important for Parliament to reflect the Canadian population, adding that having indigenous candidates on the ballot will help the community connect to federal politics.
The Liberals have 14 candidates in Manitoba, three of whom identify as aboriginal: Ouellette (Winnipeg Centre), Rebecca Chartrand (Churchill–Keewatinook Aski) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface-St. Vital).
In total, there are 12 indigenous candidates running for the Liberals across Canada.
The NDP says it has a total of nine aboriginal candidates running across Canada as of Thursday afternoon. The Conservatives say they have three aboriginal candidates running for the party to date.
Indigenous voters 'do matter,' says group
With a federal election set for this fall, grassroots groups are rallying people, including indigenous communities, to become politically engaged.
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A Winnipeg non-partisan group called Indigenous Rock the Vote has Facebook pages that engages people in political conversation and helps aboriginal people obtain the identification they need to vote in elections.
Organizer Sylvia Boudreau said the group saw more aboriginal people take part in Winnipeg's civic election last year.
"It was really empowering … just to see people coming together like that, and realizing that yeah, they do matter," said Boudreau, who added that aboriginal voter turnout has historically been low.
"If the engagement increases, knowing the numbers of the population of the indigenous community, it could change it dramatically," she added.
Boudreau said voters should pay attention to the party platforms of any candidate they choose to vote for.
2nd visit to Winnipeg this month
This was Trudeau's second visit to Winnipeg this month. On July 4, he held a meet and greet alongside Winnipeg South candidate Terry Duguid and hosted a town hall meeting on open government.
Upon his arrival in Winnipeg on Wednesday, the Liberal leader checked out the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and visited the Main Street campaign office of Kildonan-St. Paul candidate MaryAnn Mihychuk.
During the noon hour Thursday, Trudeau and Ouellette chatted with people as they ate lunch at food trucks along Broadway.
Among those who stopped to have pictures taken with the pair was Rebecca Moar, who said she voted for Ouellette in last year's civic election and plans to vote for the Liberals.
Moar said it's important to have indigenous political candidates because they would represent important issues that are important to them, such as missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and racism.
"I think honestly, Winnipeg is really racist. That is one major thing here," Moar said.
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Winnipeg was named Canada's most racist city in a controversial Maclean's magazine article that remarked on deep racial division between aboriginal and non-aboriginal citizens.
Trudeau said he will return to Manitoba during his campaign, with a possible stop in a First Nation community.
Trudeau says no to Liberal-NDP coalition
Meanwhile, Trudeau rejected an idea — floated by NDP MP Nathan Cullen — of forming a coalition to defeat the Conservatives in this fall's election.
"There are a number of issues on which the Liberal Party of Canada and the NDP disagree in quite a fundamental level," Trudeau said Thursday.
"Although, of course, we are open to working with all parties in the house to pass good legislation and to ensure that Canadians' interests are served, there will be no formal coalition with the NDP."