A provincial women's group wants more Indigenous women to get out and vote in the provincial election.

Erin Corston

Ontario Native Women's Association executive director Erin Corston says Indigenous women have the potential to swing some ridings in the Ontario election. (CBC)

"Your vote is your voice," reads a pamphlet from the Ontario Native Women's Association. "Use your voice to be heard."

The executive director of ONWA said mainstream society is beginning to listen to Indigenous women and voting is a chance to broaden that influence.

"If they took those extra efforts to have their voices heard (by voting) I think it would really swing things," Erin Corston said.
The organization has asked all the parties for their policies on three key issues: child welfare, the environment and violence against women.

'Potential to swing things a certain way'

Corston said answers from the politicians will be shared with members of the group to help inform their vote.

"We're doing what we can to ensure that our membership here is aware of how important it is that they get out and vote because in a lot of areas there is potential to swing things a certain way," she said.

Corston said the majority of Aboriginal women in Ontario live off-reserve so provincial policies directly affect their lives.
First Nations people didn't have the right to vote in Ontario until 1954, and voter turn out has typically been lower than among the non-Aboriginal population.

Some First Nations people argue that participating in a provincial election denies First Nations sovereignty.

'We have this relationship with the provincial government'

But Joseph Leblanc doesn't buy that.

Joseph Leblanc

Green Party candidate Joseph Leblanc says he's hearing many common concerns among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal voters in his Thunder Bay-Superior North riding. (Green Party website)

The Odawa man is running for the Green Party in Thunder Bay-Superior North.

"Soveriegny exists in all of us and that's where this concept of we're all Treaty people comes in," Leblanc said. "We have this relationship with the provincial government whether we agree to it or not."

"They're managing natural resources, they're managing mines, they're administering social assistance."
"So we have to participate in that system otherwise there's nothing more to be said," he added. "Either we continue to be marginalized as we were before we got the vote or we marginalize ourselves now that we have the right to vote."