Sudbury

Increase in Indigenous candidates in Ontario election

Indigenous politicians are lending their voice to Ontario's provincial elections, but some are saying they can't be pigeonholed into party platforms.

Last Indigenous MPP was NDP Peter North of Elgin

Algoma-Manitoulin Liberal candidate Charles Fox (right) listens to incumbent New Democrat Michael Mantha at a candidate's debate. (Erik White/CBC )

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."

Professor Brock Pitawanakwat, shown here in a University of Sudbury photo, says Indigenous candidates must be true to their identity, culture and communities, while navigating a colonial system. (University of Sudbury)

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.

Isadore Day says Indigenous candidates have made a personal decision to run out of a desire for change. (CBC)

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

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