Winnipeg indigenous campaign hopes to drive more to polls
Facebook page 'Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote 2014' encourages Aboriginal community to vote
Winnipeg will vote in its next mayor and council Oct. 22., and local artist Jackie Traverse is doing what she can to get the city’s aboriginal block out to the polls.
"I was at the unveiling for the monument for the missing and murdered women,” said Traverse.
That, combined with anger over comments about Aboriginal people made by Gord Steeves’ wife on Facebook, gave birth to the idea among Traverse and her friends.
"We can't complain about who gets in as mayor if we don't do anything, if we don't vote," she said.
Traverse and her friends launched the Rock the Vote Facebook page, and it has spiked in popularity.
"One morning I got up and I got it ready and we've got over 2,000 members so far, and I think it was last week that I started it,” said Traverse.
Traverses' group isn't supporting any one candidate but simply encouraging people to vote.
But having an Aboriginal candidate in Robert-Falcon Ouellette in the running could help propel more of Winnipeg’s Aboriginal community to the polls.
Kevin Hart has worked on political campaigns across the province and said the Native vote is slowly becoming too big to ignore.
"You know we have one of the largest Aboriginal populations in Canada and it's growing, around 60,000 to 70,000 people,” said Hart. “Of that how many eligible voters do you have?”
Traverse said it's time the old stereotypes were buried for good.
“I know many people that work,” said Traverse. “We are not all drunks and we are not all pan handling – we are citizens of this city as well."
Traverse said a strong Aboriginal turnout at the polls sends a message that First Nations people are citizens who should be heard like everyone else.
"We are getting stronger together and informing each other on what's going on,” said Traverse. “And it's a rush when you see the group grow and see the interest pick up, and it's just a bond and it feels really good."