First Nations need to act now to ensure members have the proper identification to vote in the upcoming federal election, according to Dalles First Nation councillor Tania Cameron.
The one-time NDP candidate in Kenora, in northwestern Ontario, has turned her attention this election season to helping First Nations overcome the barriers to voting in what she calls the "Un-Fair Elections Act."
The act requires voters have two pieces of identification and eliminates vouching, a process that was frequently used in First Nations communities and lets a voter have someone swear to where he or she lives.
- AFN General Assembly: Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau vow to promote reconciliation
- The AFN's quest to mobilize the First Nations vote
- Elections Canada budgets $1M for aboriginal ID issue in federal vote
"I'm calling for registration days or ID clinics," Cameron said. "Communities should be hosting them once a month, at least, until the election."
Info package on Facebook
Cameron has set up a Facebook page called First Nations Rock the Vote, where people can find information on what qualifies as identification. She's also providing Elections Canada forms such as the Letter of Confirmation of Residence, that can be filled out by chief and council.
"One of the biggest things I was concerned about is the lack of civic addresses in the northern remote communities," Cameron said. "As well, a lot of the northern First Nations people might not have the ID such as a passport or a driver's license."
Data from the last election shows an average of 46 per cent of eligible voters in the 40 First Nations in the Kenora riding turned out to vote. However, there is a wide range of participation, from 88 per cent in Wabigoon Lake First Nation to 32 per cent in Wabaseemoong First Nation.
'Mobilize the vote'
The turnout is based on eligible voters in each community, a number Cameron said isn't reflective of the population.
"Because Elections Canada doesn't do the registering anymore, I know for a fact that a lot of communities on that list that say they only have 62 eligible voters, there's at least 400 on the reserve," she said.
Cameron said the election has been a hot topic at the Assembly of First Nations meeting she's attending this week in Montreal.
"Chiefs are saying, 'we have to mobilize the vote',"she said. "Some chiefs have even gone on to say that we should be looking at each of the riding numbers and seeing which party we should be supporting to get rid of the Conservatives, but there hasn't been a formal resolution to solidify that."