Callingbull to C-51: the influence of the indigenous vote

Michael Champagne says young people in his community are becoming increasingly disenfranchised as the election campaign drags on. But Leah Gazan says specific issues still have the power to mobilize the indigenous vote.

Michael Champagne and Leah Gazan reflect on what's galvanizing the indigenous vote

Michael Champagne, Ashley Callingbull, and Leah Gazan (Photos Courtesy: CBC / Leah Gazan)

Ashley Callingbull was recently crowned Mrs. Universe 2015, and wasted no time sharing her thoughts on the current Conservative government and its relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

We're human beings and we're not being treated as such. I think it's time we had a new government.- Ashley Callingbull , Enoch Cree Nation

With the federal election just days away, Callingbull and other advocates are calling on First Nation people across Canada to get out to the polls.

Champagne says young indigenous voters are feeling disenfranchised. (Michael Champagne)
While issues like the niqab and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) dominate headlines, there's also been ongoing discussion about the influence — and priorities — of indigenous voters.

Rosanna Deerchild sat down with two Winnipeg community advocates — University of Winnipeg professor Leah Gazan and North End community organizer Michael Champagne — to get their perspective on the upcoming vote.

According to Champagne, young people in his community are becoming increasingly disenfranchised as the election campaign drags on. 

We've become disgusted, disappointed. The standards that we have for regular human interaction aren't even being respected by many of the political candidates.- Michael Champagne

But while voters might feel disconnected from candidates and leaders, Gazan said that specific issues still have the power to mobilize First Nations people.

Gazan: "I'm going to vote to protect people on the front lines". (CBC)
"Bill C-51 directly attacks indigenous land defenders. I'm going to vote to protect people on the front lines," said Gazan.

"I'm also going to make a vote to protect other communities that are being harassed by bigotry… including the Muslim community."

Callingbull surprised many when she used her Mrs. Universe profile to weigh in on the government's relationship with First Nations people — going so far as saying the government treats them "like terrorists."

Gazan and Champagne applauded Callingbull's decision to use her newfound celebrity in this way.

"I think it's great, because Callingbull is 'calling bull' on the government," laughed Champagne. "I think it's important for people who have public platforms to use their example."

Historically, First Nations voters have had low levels of voter turnout. And while some resist the idea of participating in Canadian political systems all together, Gazan said that political engagement — in any form — is an important community value.

People need to be involved in their communities. They need to sound their voice - and not just at election time when things are exciting.- Leah Gazan

At the beginning of the campaign, Champagne was committed to casting a ballot. But admitted he became discouraged during the process and briefly considered not voting at all. 

"Us as young people would like to have real and honest conversations with the people who are representatives of this government," said Champagne. "But they don't text us or tweet us back and they don't attend our forums."

Now he is back on board, but candidates be warned.

If you don't talk to us, we're not voting for you.- Michael Champagne