An indigenous guide to the 2015 federal election

With the 42nd federal election almost coming to a close, a look at indigenous candidates who have entered the race, platforms and ridings to watch.

Who are the indigenous candidates and what are the parties offering indigenous voters?

Indigenous man casts ballet during advance voting in the Yukon. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Since Conservative Angus Mckay — who was Métis —  became the first indigenous person elected to Canada's parliament in 1871, Indigenous Peoples have entered the realm of federal politics in increasing numbers.  With the 42nd federal election almost coming to a close, here's a brief look at the party's indigenous candidates, platforms and some ridings to watch. 

Who's running?

Between the Conservatives, Green Party, Liberals and NDP, a total of 54 indigenous candidates are running in the 42nd federal election. That's up 23% from the 2011 election, when there were 31 indigenous candidates in those same parties.

Here are the candidates:

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)

Leona Aglukkaq (Inuit) - Nunavut
Rob Clarke (Cree) - Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
Peter Penashue (Innu) - Labrador
Floyd Roland (Inuvialuit) - Northwest Territories

Green Party of Canada (GPC)

Terry Cormier (Mi'kmaq) - Long Range Mountains
Brandford Dean (Cree) - Lac-Saint-Louis
Roger Fleury (Algonquin) - Hull-Alymer
Richard Jacques (Cree/Algonquin) - Cariboo-Prince George
​Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi (Kwakiutl/Quatsino) - Cowichan-Malahat-Langford
​Ralph McLean (Métis) - Edmonton Mill Woods
Jeannie Parnell (Carrier) - Skeena-Bulkley Valley
Lorraine Rekmans (Algonquin) - Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes
Brenda Sayers (Nuu-chah-nult) - North Island-Powell River
Sherri Springle (Aboriginal) - Avignon-La Mitis-Matane-Matapédia

Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)

Lisa Abbott (Cree) - Saskatoon West
Michèle Audette (Innu) - Terrebonne
Della Anaquod (Saulteaux, Cree, Dakota) - Regina-Qu'appelle
Philippe Archambault (Métis) - Lanark–Frontenac-Kingston
Vance Badawey (Métis) - Niagara Centre
Rebecca Chartrand (Anishinaabe, Métis) - Churchill-Keewatinook Aski
Trisha Cowie (Aboriginal) - Parry Sound-Muskoka
Louis De Jaeger (Métis) - Chilliwack-Hope
Yvonne Jones (Inuit) - Labrador
Lawrence Joseph (Cree) - Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
Michael McLeod (Métis) - Northwest Territories
Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Cree) - Winnipeg Centre
Gary Parenteau (Métis) - Lakeland
Don Rusnak (Anishinaabe) - Thunder Bay-Rainy River
Karley Scott (Métis) - Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola
Hunter Tootoo (Inuit) - Nunavut
Dan Vandal (Métis) - Saint Boniface-Saint Vital
Jody Wilson-Raybould (Kwakwaka'wakw) - Vancouver Granville

New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP)

Cameron Alexis (Nakota) - Peace River-Westlock
​Jack Anawak (Inuit) - Nunavut
Melissa Atkinson (Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in) - Yukon
Fritz Bitz (Métis) - Edmonton--Wetaskiwin
April Bourgeois (Métis) - Regina-Wascana
Deborah Chief (Ojibway) - Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman
Chantal Crête (Métis) – Argenteuil Petite-Nation
Trent Derrick (Gitxsan) - Cariboo-Prince George
Kathi Dickie (Dene) - Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies
Jonathan Genest-Jourdain (Innu) - Manicouagan 
Rex Isaac (Anishinaabe) - Lambton-Kent-Middlesex
Georgina Jolibois (Dene) - Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
Melody Lepine (Cree) - Fort McMurray-Cold Lake
Claudette Menchenton (Mi'kmaq) - Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame
Aaron Paquette (Cree) - Edmonton Manning
Edward Rudkowski (Inuit) – Labrador
Romeo Saganash (Cree) - Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik--Eeyou
​Katherine Swampy (Cree) - Battle River-Crowfoot
Carleen Thomas (Tsleil-Waututh) - North Vancouver
Nancy Tremblay (Abenaki) - Orléans
​Melissa Wastasecoot (Cree) - Brandon-Souris
Duane Zaraska (Métis) – Lakeland

What are they offering Indigenous peoples?

Here's a look at indigenous-specific items being offered to indigenous voters.

Conservative Party

The Conservatives made little mention of indigenous peoples during their campaign, nor do the words Inuit, Métis, First Nations or indigenous appear anywhere in their platform document. However, before the writ dropped the party made some big ticket pledges (including in the most recent federal budget);

  • $215 million to provide skills development and training for aboriginal peoples;
  • $200 million for First Nations education and and schools;
  • $30 million for a land management scheme aimed at helping economic development on reserves.
  • Review the 94 recommendations released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Commit $567 million over five years to help build "stronger communities."
  • $500 million toward building and renovating schools on reserves.

Green Party

Although Indigenous Peoples are mentioned and included throughout the Green Party's "Vision Green" there is a specific "Aboriginal policy." Here are some highlights of what the Green Party says MPs will do if elected:

  • Implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Restore the $5.1 billion commitment and specifics of the Kelowna Accord.
  • Work with aboriginal groups to create an Aboriginal Lands and Treaties Tribunal Act that deals with land claims, negotiations, etc.
  • Immediately implement lands claims agreements already negotiated and that may have stalled due to lack of funding.
  • Review all existing federal policies on self-government.
  • Ensure that any self-government negotiations do not lead to extinguishment of aboriginal title and rights or assimilation.
  • Fully implement the recommendations of the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
  • Remove the 2% funding cap on First Nation education and fully fund the program back log ($424 million).
  • Ensure that governments and corporations honor and abide by the Sparrow Decision (which recognizes the aboriginal right to fish) as well as the Tsilhqot'in ruling, which recognizes aboriginal title.
  • Negotiate and legislate primary hunting, fishing, trapping, and logging rights for aboriginal peoples on traditional lands.
  • If pushed by First Nations, work to scrap the Indian Act.

Liberal Party

Much of what the Liberals are offering indigenous peoples is included in their "Real Change" platform document, under the section, "United and Inclusive Canada." If they assume power, the party says a Liberal government will;

  • Immediately lift the two per cent cap on funding for First Nations programs and services (which a Liberal government introduced in 1996)
  • "Nation-to-nation talks" on improving gap in First Nations education.
  • Initial funding of an extra $515 million a year for core education in First Nations schools (K to 12) for a total of $2.6 billion in new funding over four years.
  • $500 million over 3 years for education infrastructure
  • Will work with provinces and territories on improving urban schools where First Nations are large sector of population.
  • Additional $50 million per year for post-secondary student support. 
  • Implement the Kelowna Accord "in a manner that meets today's challenges."
  • New funding to support and enhance indigenous languages
  • Ensure that First Nations have control over First Nations education. 
  • Equitable funding for child and family services on reserves.
  • Immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
  • Enact the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Repeal changes to the Elections Act that might make it harder for indigenous peoples to vote
  • Development of a "Federal Reconciliation Framework" with mechanisms to resolve grievances associated with existing historical treaties and modern land-claims agreements.
  • Conduct a full review of legislation unilaterally imposed on indigenous peoples by the Harper government.
  • The Liberals also vow to begin a new nation-to-nation relationship with the Métis, including the settling of land claims and improving federal funding agreements for programs and services.
  • While on a pre-campaign stop in Winnipeg, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau vowed to contribute the federal funding needed build a road for the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.


NDP leader Tom Mulcair revealed most of the party's pledges to indigenous peoples on Oct. 7, while attending the Assembly of First Nations meetings in Alberta. They are:

  • Remove the 'punitive' two per cent funding cap imposed and maintained by previous Liberal and Conservative governments.
  • Increase investment in First Nations by $1.8 billion over the next four years and $4.8 billion over eight years based on an annual escalator.
  • Improve critical infrastructure in indigenous communities, including clean water and sanitation facilities, with $375 million over four years.
  • Provide $96 million over four years and long-term funding of $800 million over 20 years to support infrastructure projects.
  • Call an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women within 100 days of taking office and provide $50 million to support it.
  • Commit $68 million to revitalize indigenous languages.
  • Improve health services available for indigenous people living in urban centres with an investment of $120 million.

Mulcair also outlined initiatives he previously announced on the campaign trail that would indirectly affect indigenous people, including billions of dollars for affordable housing initiatives, a $100-million Mental Health and Innovation Fund for Children and Youth, which would include $5 million for a suicide prevention strategy for at-risk populations, of which First Nations, Métis and Inuit are a part. 

The NDP leader also reiterated a pledge he made during a campaign trip to Iqaluit, during which he promised that a New Democratic government would invest $32 million to improve and expand Nutrition North, which increases access to healthy and sustainable food for isolated northern communities.

Ridings to watch

Churchill-Keewatinook Aski: Liberal indigenous candidate Rebecca Chartrand will attempt to unseat the NDPs Niki Ashton in a northern Manitoba riding with a huge indigenous population.

Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River: As it was in 2011, a riding where three candidates are indigenous. Conservative Incumbent Rob Clarke will defend his seat from candidates Lawrence Joseph (LPC) and Georgina Jolibois (NDP).

Kenora: Bob Nault, a former Liberal Minister of Indian Affairs, will attempt to unseat Conservative Greg Rickford. The NDP say they're going after this riding hard and are running Howard Hampton, a former party advisor for the Ring of Fire -- a planned chromite mining and smelting development.

Labrador: Peter Penashue (Innu) attempts to regain the riding for the Conservatives, after resigning in 2013 following a controversy over spending irregularities. Penashue lost a by-election to Liberal Yvonne Jones (Innu) that same year. 

Madawaska-Restigouche: Home riding of Aboriginal Affairs minister Bernard Valcourt. Valcourt is being challenged by Rene Arseneault (LPC) and Rosaire L'Italien (NDP)

Nunavut: Incumbent Leona Aglukkaq (CPC) is defending her seat against two fellow Inuit challengers that include former MP Jack Anawak (NDP) and former long time MLA Hunter Tootoo (LPC).

Peace River-Westlock: Former Assembly of First Nations regional chief Cameron Alexis (NDP) attempts to take a newly formed riding that only came into effect during the 42nd federal election.

Vancouver-Granville: Jody Wilson-Raybould, a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, is running in a newly formed riding.

Winnipeg Centre: Former Winnipeg mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette (LPC) will attempt to unseat long-time MP Pat Martin (NDP) in a riding where over 13,000  - or 20% - of voters are indigenous.


  • We initially reported that Yvonne Jones, a Liberal Party candidate in Labrador, was of Métis heritage. In fact, she is of Inuit heritage.
    Aug 15, 2015 9:16 AM CT
  • We initially reported that Edward Rudkowski, an NDP candidate in Labrador, was of Innu heritage. In fact, he is of Inuit heritage.
    Aug 13, 2015 2:39 PM CT


Tim Fontaine is a Winnipeg-based writer who has worked for APTN National News and CBC Indigenous. You can follow him on Twitter: @anishinaboy.