Saskatchewan

Will more aboriginal voters head to the polls?

Several groups are working toward increasing voter turnout among aboriginal people, which could lead to higher numbers at the polls.

2015 election reality could encourage a higher indigenous voter turnout

Agnes Pranteau, 74, casts a vote for the NDP during advance voting at Otineka Mall on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN). Pranteau says despite internal turmoil within the party's elected officials, she consistently votes for the NDP. (Chris Glover/CBC)

To vote or not to vote? 

Aboriginal people in Canada have historically been less likely to vote in federal elections, with a turnout of just 46.4 per cent in the 2011 election.

This year, though, there are signs that number could be on the rise. Here's a look at some initiatives that could lead to a higher aboriginal voter turnout. 

Polling stations on reserves

A voter holds his voter information card at a polling station during the 41st Canadian general election in Etobicoke, Ont., on May 2, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Elections Canada is in discussion with First Nations around Saskatchewan to have more polling stations located on reserves. Last election there were 210 on-reserve polls

Marie-France Kenny with Elections Canada said they are still discussing the option with bands this year and won't know the final numbers until the election. However, in the Regina-Qu'Appelle riding, Kenny said that at least 10 of 14 reserves will have at least one polling station on election day.

Saskatchewan saw increases of on-reserve voter turnout in a number of ridings in the 2011 federal election. 

The highest increase in Saskatchewan was in the riding formerly called Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, where Elections Canada said turnout increased "substantially."

Push from the Assembly of First Nations

The Assembly of First Nations has been encouraging its members to vote. In early September it released a document calling for changes in the 2015 federal election.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde gestures during a news conference to outline the AFN's priorities for the upcoming federal election, in Ottawa, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (Canadian Press)

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, called on First Nations people at that time to show up and vote, and help improve aboriginal voter turnout.

The assembly identified 51 federal ridings where First Nations voters could change the outcome of the election, including seven Conservative-held ridings in Saskatchewan.

Push from local initiatives

A new effort in Saskatchewan is working to get aboriginal people to vote this election.

Indigenous Vote Sask. is a non-partisan volunteer-run group that's working to support aboriginal voters and make sure they cast their ballots.

Right now it is helping indigenous voters register to vote and helping make sure voters have correct voting information. The initiative also actively promotes voting using social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. 

More indigenous candidates

The number of aboriginal candidates running in this election is up from the last campaign, with 49 indigenous candidates nominated across Canada as of the beginning of September, compared to 33 in 2011. 

In Saskatchewan, six candidates of indigenous background are currently seeking federal seats. In 2011 there were five. Earlier this campaign there were seven indigenous people running in the province, but the NDP's Sandra Arias for Battlefords-Lloydminster has since dropped out of the race.

The candidates are more spread-out this year as well. Last election four of the five indigenous candidates in the province were running in the same riding, Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. 

The six indigenous candidates seeking office in Saskatchewan are: 

Conservative

  • Incumbent Rob Clarke (Cree) - Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River

NDP

  • April Bourgeois (Métis) - Regina-Wascana
  • Georgina Jolibois (Dene) - Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River - mayor of La Loche since 2003

Liberal

  • Lisa Abbott (Cree) - Saskatoon West
  • Della Anaquod (Saulteaux, Cree, Dakota) - Regina-Qu'appelle
  • Lawrence Joseph (Cree) - Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River 

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