Increase in Indigenous candidates in Ontario election
Last Indigenous MPP was NDP Peter North of Elgin
Indigenous politicians are lending their voice to Ontario's provincial elections, but some are saying they can't be pigeonholed into party platforms.
Ontario's New Democrat Party says it has five candidates in the upcoming election.
The Liberal Party says it has three Indigenous candidates, and the Progressive Conservatives didn't respond to CBC News, but in the riding of Kiiwetinoong, has one.
Only one candidate identifying as Indigenous has ever been elected provincially.
Peter North sat as an NDP MPP in the southwestern riding of Elgin at first, then as an independent, in the 1990s
Despite the increase in representation, Algoma-Manitoulin Liberal candidate Charles Fox said people shouldn't read too much into party labels.
"Why am I Liberal?,' Fox said. "I am not a Liberal. I am Anishnaabe. I chose to run for the Liberal party."
University of Sudbury professor Brock Pitawanakwat says Indigenous candidates face unique challenges.
They must be true to their identity, culture and communities, while navigating a colonial system.
"Those aren't mutually exclusive," Pitawanakwat said. "It's absolutely possible to do both. But I really feel it's an extra burden that Indigenous candidates have to take on."
Pitawanakwat said the burden has probably discouraged many entering Ontario politics. But this election could provide a catalyst for more Indigenous to make the attempt.
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said Indigenous candidates have made a personal decision to run out of a desire for change.
"We will be shattering the boundaries of the Indian Act," Day said. "We will be breaking the yoke of oppression."
With files from Kate Rutherford