Saskatoon

Several Sask. polling stations short on ballots as aboriginal voters show up in droves

Liberal candidate Lawrence Joseph calls the ballot shortage unacceptable. But he is also pleased to see "awakening" among indigenous voters.

Many said they were determined to make their mark this time

(iStock)

Running out of ballots is both a problem and sign of success when it comes to the aboriginal vote in Saskatchewan.

CBC has received at least three reports of polling stations temporarily running out of ballots, on three First Nations, leaving observers to note that aboriginal people came out in droves to cast ballots during this election. 

Voter turnout across the province was up. Elections Canada said 72.1 per cent of eligible voters in the province cast a ballot in the election. That's up from 66 per cent in 2011. 

Elections Canada does not track by ethnicity, and the above numbers do not include people who only registered on voting day at the poll. 

The riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River was one of the tightest races in the country.

The NDP edged out the Liberals by only 70 votes. Liberal candidate Lawrence Joseph said he's upset that running out of ballots at one point may have swayed the result.

"At my reserve, Big River First Nation, in fact they had to go running twice, to go and find more ballots I guess. That is just totally not acceptable."

Joseph said some people did not wait for new ballots to arrive. Liberals have to end of the week to request a recount.

"On the good side that was really nice to see, because in previous elections, people have just sat home and said, 'the heck with it,' and you can't blame them. Because you've been conditioned to think that your vote doesn't count," Joseph said.

"Obviously now there's an awakening happening.'- Lawrence Joseph, Liberal candidate

"Obviously now there's an awakening happening. And thanks to Mr. Harper and his Conservatives I think the awakening ...  the majority of the people that voted were calling for change." 

Joseph also wondered if Elections Canada staff were trained to be as patient as they could be with some aboriginal voters, some of whom would have voted for the first time in their lives and would not be certain of what documents they needed to present at the poll.

"Obviously there is still a lot to learn," Joseph said.

Ballot shortage on Beardy's and Okemasis, One Arrow

The Chief of the Ahtahkakoop First Nation also said the polls opened late in his community because the poll supervisor forgot the ballots at home. Ballots also ran out temporarily on the One Arrow and Beardy's and Okemasis First Nations.

Kevin Seeseequasis, a member of Beardy's and a member of the national board of the Liberal Party, didn't express the same concerns. He said Elections Canada did a good job of getting new ballots quickly. 

"They had ballots within, I believe at the very least an hour."

'We saw indigenous mobilization at a level that you haven't seen ever before and indigenous peoples recognizing and realizing that their voice has sway."- Source

He said Elections Canada told him the turnout in Beardy's was "phenomenal", something that makes him proud, even though he was disappointed to see Conservative Kelly Block re-elected in his riding of Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek.

"I think we saw indigenous mobilization at a level that you haven't seen ever before and indigenous peoples recognizing and realizing that their voice has sway in the federal political process, and that is a good thing."

When it comes to running out of ballots, Elections Canada told CBC that there were provisions in place to make sure anyone who wanted to cast a ballot, would have been able to.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.