First Nations voters in Regina-Qu'Appelle engaged despite barriers
Many First Nations in Saskatchewan riding hopeful their vote can make a difference
Initiatives to bring out the First Nations vote in October seem to be succeeding in the Regina-Qu'Appelle riding in southern Saskatchewan. At the annual Treaty 4 gathering in Fort Qu'Appelle last week, the upcoming federal election was on the agenda.
Allison Dubois, a community organizer from the Pasqua First Nation, says that "as a First Nations person, every time we wake up it's politics. Our whole life is politics. it's about legislation, it's been about the Indian Act, it's been about Bill C-31."
There are 13 First Nations in the Regina-Qu'Appelle riding, and according to the Assembly of First Nations, more than 13,000 eligible voters could make a big difference on Oct. 19.
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Elections Canada says just over 50 per cent of on-reserve voters cast a ballot in 2011. Dubois is hopeful that even more First Nations will come to the polls next month.
"We need to rise up, vote, and then we're having a say, we're taking a stand and having a strong say in who forms the next government." said Dubois.
The riding has been held by Conservative MP and House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer since 2004. He won the last election by over 4,000 votes, but efforts to mobilize the indigenous vote has some grassroots people hoping for change.
"I think that everybody that I talk to, they're going to come out and vote this year. I think there is more interest." said Mona Creeley from the Okanese First Nation.
Some worry, however, that stricter rules from the new Fair Elections Act will discourage voters.
"Now, I heard it's kind of tough when you register for your voting," said Joe Poitras from Starblanket Cree Nation. "A lot of them might not have the proper ID."
Dubois is hopeful First Nations will come out to vote, but recognizes ID is just one of the barriers.
"First Nations people, the grassroots people, have been for some time the voiceless people and because they have been voiceless they've become disenfranchised." she said.
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