OPINION | Red sky at night, Indigenous delight

The aboriginal voter turn out will make Canada pay attention to indigenous people and their issues, writes John Lagimodiere.

"In the past, politicians didn't care about indigenous issues because we didn’t care to vote."

Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau waves on stage in Montreal on October 20, 2015 after winning the federal election. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

As the "red wave" started taking over the east coast, indigenous people across Canada started to feel a little bit of hope.

Could it be that after ten years of battling the Conservatives at seemingly every turn there may actually be a change?

As Ontario and Quebec went red too, that wave turned to relief for indigenous people. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was quickly confirmed as the prime minister-designate with a solid majority of 184. Stephen Harper, who is stepping down, and the Conservatives were left with just 99 seats. The NDP with only 44. 

Indigenous people who usually don't vote came out in droves to take selfies outside of the polling booth, but mostly to "heave Steve" or vote "anybody but Conservative" (ABC).There were stories of reserve communities running out of ballots.The St Mary's polling station in Saskatoon-West was literally overwhelmed with the amount of voters, a majority of them indigenous. The First Nation and Métis vote certainly helped Saskatoon-West winner NDP Sheri Benson and NDP Georgina Jolibois in the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River riding. 

So, the Harper government is gone, but some folks say the Liberals are the same cat with different stripes. Remember, the Liberals are the party that tabled the White Paper that proposed full assimilation and in the 1990s imposed the dreaded 2 per cent cap on First Nation funding. They also had many years to apologise for the residential schools, but alas, just didn't get around to it during their last mandate.

The Liberals certainly do have a tainted past, but indigenous people have reason to be optimistic. The Liberal Party promised to remove that 2 per cent cap on funding, inject billions into education, accept the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People and implement the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The party also called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and in his victory speech,Trudeau promised to negotiate on a nation-to-nation basis.   

That's a big list but how do we hold them to it?

Liberal candidates Lisa Abbott and Della Anaquod ran great campaigns. Lawrence Joseph got as close as you can get in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River and believe me, those voices will be heard in Ottawa. They have a great indigenous caucus and also elected five indigenous Members of Parliament. Plus there is always old faithful, Ralph Goodale.

But the most powerful thing pushing forward the agenda will be the people. Indigenous people are engaged on a new level. This is an historic step. In the past, politicians didn't care about indigenous issues because we didn't care to vote. This massive turnout will certainly make the Liberal party, and Trudeau for that matter, pay attention to the indigenous people of Canada.

About the Author

John Lagimodiere

John Lagimodiere, a Métis entrepreneur, is the President of ACS Aboriginal Consulting Services and the Publisher/Editor of Eagle Feather News, Saskatchewan’s largest independent Aboriginal media outlet. He has also hosted the national radio show “As If” on CBC Radio. Lagimodiere has won numerous awards including the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.

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