New Brunswick

Chiefs urge aboriginal Atlantic Canadians to vote

A First Nations group is rallying aboriginal Atlantic Canadians to vote in the upcoming federal election.

A First Nations group is rallying aboriginal Atlantic Canadians to vote in the upcoming federal election.

The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs says there are about 22,000 natives eligible to vote and it is working on reaching them during the last week of campaigning for the May 2 vote.

John Paul, executive director of the congress, said the chiefs' primary concerns are economic development, health, housing and recognizing treaty rights.

"Those are things that are about who we are. I think respecting and working with us in the implementation of those things will go a long way in terms of us building a stronger relationship with the federal government as well as the provincial governments and everybody else," he said from Moncton, N.B.

Paul said the congress is organizing meetings between chiefs and candidates in their ridings to discuss issues relating to aboriginals. It will give chiefs a chance to tell candidates about their community needs in health and infrastructure, as well as ideas for economic development.

"I think one of the fundamental things that they need to understand more than ever is an investment in our communities is an investment in their own economy," he said.

The congress says 67 per cent of the First Nations population in Atlantic Canada is eligible to vote.

The congress is not recommending any one party and says all of the parties are courting aboriginal voters.

"They all realize that the voting margins in some of these ridings in different parts of Atlantic Canada [means] 200, 300, 500 votes will be the difference between which party wins the riding," he said.  

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