Chiefs in Manitoba encourage First Nations people to vote in federal election

First Nation chiefs in Manitoba say it’s important people get out and vote on Sept. 20.

“Make your voice heard; help us do our job,” said Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

“Show our federal partners that they must listen to that collective voice that’s coming from Manitoba.”

The virtual Town Hall Wednesday was part of the bigger campaign: ‘I am First Nation and I vote’, which is being promoted by various First Nation organizations in Manitoba.

“We have to show all Canadians that First Nations can vote in huge proportions – huge proportions – to be an example for the rest of the population who isn’t voting,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization.

“Everybody has to vote. That’s the only way that governments and democracy works. Democracy only works when the people are engaged.”

Daniels also touched on the importance of treaties and working towards getting them recognized.

“When we engage in federal elections with Canada it’s important for us to remember that we are still a sovereign people, and that we are still fighting for the recognition of our jurisdiction,” he added.

Newly elected Island Lake Tribal Council Grand Chief Scottie Harper echoed the sentiment.

“That’s something that we still look forward to,” Harper said, “…that there will be a representative from Canada to come back into our region and to complete what we have wanted and are striving for.”

Other topics addressed during the Town Hall included housing, healthcare and greater internet connectivity for First Nation communities.

“I hear time and time again – every time I talk to different communities – they don’t have it, or it’s slow, or there’s so much stuff that we need but one of them is connectivity,” said Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for Manitoba, Cindy Woodhouse.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee wants to see the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action become a priority for the next federal government.

“The Truth and Reconciliation should have timelines for when they will be enforced, because there’s been Calls to Action that are starting to collect dust on shelves” Settee said.

In the 2015 and 2019 federal elections, voter turnout spiked thanks to initiatives like Rock the Vote. Settee is hoping this election sees more of the same from First Nations people.

“If we don’t vote, the status quo will stay the same,” Settee said. “We will not see change until we see that our people’s voice are included in these elections.

“And I want to remind our relatives, get out there and vote; like they always tell us – if you don’t vote you can’t complain, and I believe that.”

While none of the leaders endorsed one party or candidate over the other during the Town Hall, they did say they support First Nation candidates who are running. Some of those candidates include Liberal Shirley Robinson in the Churchill Keewatinook-Aski riding and NDP incumbent Leah Gazan in Winnipeg Centre.

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