What matters to Indigenous voters in Manitoba?

At a powwow in La Salle, Man. Saturday, CBC News asked what the key issues are for Indigenous voters as they prepare to cast their ballot next month.

Health, climate change, and poverty top of mind for Indigenous voters this federal election

Voter turnout for those living on First Nations increased in the 2015 federal election to 61.5 per cent from 47.4 per cent in 2011, according to Statistics Canada. (CBC News)

As Canadians get ready to head to the polls, everyone has an opinion about what the most important issues are.

For Indigenous voters, key issues include health care, climate change and poverty.

CBC News asked a number of people what they want to hear about this federal election while at a powwow in La Salle on Saturday, which was hosted by social services agency New Directions.

"I think we have to ask the hard questions and make sure that they get answered," said Darlene Daniels, who is the senior director of culture, education and training.

Voter turnout for those living on First Nations increased in the 2015 federal election to 61.5 per cent from 47.4 per cent in 2011, according to Statistics Canada.

Elizabeth Keeper says she hopes federal leaders will work to improve opportunities for Indigenous people who want to enter careers in health care. (Radja Mahamba/CBC)

Elizabeth Keeper

For Elizabeth Keeper, who is a dentist working in Kenora, she hopes the federal government can help provide opportunities for more Indigenous people to work in health care.

"I think it would have a phenomenal effect on our health care in each of the provinces," she said. "Especially here in Manitoba where we have a very large Indigenous community and our Indigenous people are sick at higher rates and they're dying at higher rates."

She says the way to get there is through education, which is a federal responsibility for those who live on First Nations.

"We really need the strength from our community to come through and to be able to get through school and to be able to help and heal our own community," said Keeper.

Bill Greenwalt hopes federal leaders will keep Indigenous veterans in mind when building their party platforms. (Radja Mahamba/CBC)

Bill Greenwalt

Bill Greenwalt is the vice president of the Aboriginal Veterans Association of Manitoba and for him, the key issue is government support for veterans, particularly when it comes to mental health.

"They're dropping the ball with our elder veterans. I've seen some of the circumstances they've been under," he said. 

"The health care should be a lot better. We as veterans signed that little paper and we put our lives on the line. I put my life on the line for four years and at any given time I could've been killed."

Cyril Keeper, a former NDP MP, wants to see more action on climate change and poverty in the federal party's platforms. (Radja Mahamba/CBC)

Cyril Keeper

Cyril Keeper, who was an NDP member of parliament in the 1980s, says the key issue going into this election is climate change.

He said so far, none of the leaders have impressed him with their environmental plans.

"You kind of heard echoes of it in the distance, but I want to hear it louder. It's like the approach of a thunder storm. I want to hear the thunder roll and I want to see lightning. I want to see some action and we need that," Keeper said.

The other key issue he wants to see addressed is poverty and income equality for Indigenous Canadians. 

If people are going to fulfil their potential, then they have to have a good base and income is critical," Keeper said. 

What are the parties offering?

Only the NDP and the Green Party of Canada have released their platforms, but both parties pledged to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The Greens promised to implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the calls for justice of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The party pledges to consult with Indigenous people to determine when to repeal the Indian Act. It also promises to resolve boil water advisories in First Nations communities and remove the two per cent funding cap on Indigenous post-secondary education.

The NDP pledges include lifting all drinking water advisories by 2021, improving access to mental health and addiction treatment services — including "an evidence-based action plan to prevent suicide backed by dedicated federal resources," and building a treatment centre for residents of Grassy Narrows affected by long-term mercury exposure and compensating families affected by mercury poisoning.

With files from Gavin Boutroy