North·PANEL

Young First Nations voters in Yukon on why they'll cast ballots

Young aboriginal Canadians are traditionally under-represented at the voting booth. But some young First Nations voters in Yukon hope it'll be different this time.

A CBC Yukon panel discussion with three young voters

Young aboriginal Canadians have traditionally been under-represented at the voting booths. But some young First Nations people in Yukon hope this federal election will be different.

Sandi Coleman, host of CBC Yukon's A New Day, spoke to three young Yukoners about what's motivating them to cast ballots this time around.

Dana Tizya-Tramm (CBC)
Steven Kormendy (submitted)

Dana Tizya-Tramm, 28, is a member of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation;

Steven Kormendy, 23, is a member of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation;

and Geri-Lee Buyck, 24, is a member the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation.

Portions of the discussion have been edited and condensed.

Have you ever voted in a federal election before?

Dana Tizya-Tramm: That's a big fat no.

Steven Kormendy: Yes, I have. The 2011 election. I'm pretty sure I was just turning 18 or 19 at that point, and that was my first election I voted in.
Geri-Lee Buyck (submitted)

Geri-Lee Buyck: I will be a first-time voter this year.

Why are you voting this time?

​Buyck: Just realizing more and more so over the years how I'm not happy or liking what's going on with everything, basically. I want to use the little voice that I have and make a big difference for the outcome, and encourage all those [others] to do so as well, to show them that if we all stick together we can make a difference.

Tizya-Tramm: I parallel a lot of what Geri says. I hadn't voted before. I was coming from a place of learned helplessness, where it's just the whole entity is a lot bigger than me, and it's always been, and there's no real changing it.

But I think, and I think with Geri too, that Bill S-6 gets us off the sidelines and into the game. I like to say that I became politicized, I'm not a political person. I always check my values against what my grandparents would say. And their teachings all go toward nature, and understanding and co-operating with it. So something like Bill S-6 really shows an ugly side of industry, money, and political power and these can align to misrepresent people.

What is the number one issue in this election?

Kormendy:  The environment, the protection of the environment. I can't speak for all Canadians, but I can say for me personally the protection of the environment, and the policies and legislation that go along with that, such as Bill S-6, or the imposition of Bill S-6.

Buyck: It's definitely the environment and climate change that is really frustrating me the most, that it's not being taken seriously. As a First Nations youth, I've always been hearing our leaders and elders were thinking seven generations down the road.  

Tizya-Tramm: I really hope the environment is the number one issue for Canadians. We have some of the highest sources of fresh water in the world, we have a lot of open land, and we're in an industrious age. So we have to tread lightly, especially with respect to climate change. We have all kinds of alarm bells ringing.

But I think that for overall, general Canadians, I feel that the legitimacy and transparency of our government is definitely an issue. I feel in my bones that a lot of Canadians don't like the way [Stephen Harper] conducts his secretive legislations.

Compared to 2011, do you feel that more of your peers will vote now, or vote for the first time?

Kormendy: Most definitely. This really comes down to the bills that have been put in place recently by the Conservative government.

People are starting to see the fear-mongering tactics put forward by the Conservative government, and this has a lot of people scared. I don't support Bill C-51 and I know a lot of classmates and peers don't support Bill C-51. And I think this is probably one of the biggest things that's bringing people to the polls right now.

Buyck: Yes, I do. There are many of us that are bringing the topic to discussion. We have a date set aside next week for those who are unsure how to register and whatnot, to come to our government office and get help and assistance to register. 

A lot of it has to do with what's been mentioned — Bill S-6 and Bill C-51, all of that's very big. And it's that fear that I think is driving those to get more involved by voting in this election.

I won't ask who you're voting for, but have you made up your minds?

Tizya-Tramm: I have, but it's hard.

Kormendy: I'm really split right now, and this really more or less comes down to our electoral system, and having to vote for a party that may not necessarily represent who you want to vote for locally. But I think that I have a way to overcome this. I'm about 80 per cent made up on who I'm going to vote for.

Buyck: I'm kind of in the same boat as Steven. I'm worried about splitting the vote so I'm really trying to get more of a feel of where others may side, a little bit. But in all honesty, just to put it out there, I am wearing orange today!

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