Mark Blackburn and Kathleen Martens
Support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a major hit in Monday night’s federal election when voters elected a minority Liberal government.
They also sent Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was kicked out of the Liberal caucus amid the SNC-Lavalin affair, back to Ottawa for another term.
“Tonight we accomplished together something extraordinary,” the Vancouver-Granville MP said Monday night after she was declared the winner in her riding.
“Independent strong voices matter and we can do politics differently.”
The night wasn’t as kind to her former boss.
Trudeau lost 30 seats in the House and more than a million votes, and the Liberals were banished from Alberta and Saskatchewan after long time Liberal MP Ralph Goodale lost his Regina-Wascana seat to Conservative Michael Kram.
Todd Lamirande gathers reaction from the AFN and MNC on Trudeau’s victory.
At the time of publication the Conservative Party of Canada had increased its seat tally in the House of Commons to 122.
In a bizarre move, Trudeau delivered his victors speech moments after Conservative leader Andrew Scheer began his.
The prime minister’s only reference to Indigenous peoples was in noting that his government will “make reconciliation with Indigenous peoples a priority.”
Scheer did not mention First Nations, Inuit or Metis peoples in his speech.
Short of seat recounts, 10 Indigenous MPs will head to Ottawa and take their seats in the House of Commons.
In the east, despite recent revelations of homophobic, racist and sexist tweets, Jamie Battiste became the first Mi’kmaw person to win a seat in Parliament. He won the Liberal stronghold of Sydney-Victoria in Nova Scotia.
Battiste likened his victory to that of his eastern nation.
“Just like the story of the Mi’kmaw, this is a story of perseverance,” he told APTN News after winning.
“The beautiful thing about our country is that we have the ability to have reconciliation and move forward together.”
At least five Indigenous Liberal candidates won seats in their party’s minority victory.
Dan Vandal held his seat of Saint Boniface-Saint Vital in Manitoba where he was running against four other Metis candidates.
Yvonne Jones held her seat in Labrador, as did Michael McLeod in the Northwest Territories, Vance Badaway in Niagara Centre, and Marc Serre–whose Indigenous identity has recently been called into question–in Ontario’s Nickel Belt riding.
Leah Gazan knocked off Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouelette to return Winnipeg Centre to the NDP, and NDP candidate Mumilaaq Qaqqaq won the Nunavut riding left vacant by Hunter Tootoo.
Indigenous issues and a minority government
Holding only a minority government, the Liberals could face extra pressure from the NDP, Green Party and Bloc Quebecois to steer retain policy areas in any number of directions in order to win potential coalition support and maintain governing power.
“Canadians have put the Liberals on a very tight leash,” Gabrielle Fayant said during APTN’s election night coverage.
“For us as Indigenous peoples, you know it’s really basic things they can stop doing — like stop taking First Nations children in care to court, stop sending the RCMP after land and water defenders. Stay true to what you committed to. That’s really all we want.”
For years the NDP have pushed for better on-reserve housing, addressing water issues that still plague more than 80 First Nations, and protecting the environment.
In its platform, the NDP promised to uphold Indigenous rights and advance self-determination, fully implement the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering Canada to compensate First Nations children caught up in the child welfare system, and to legislate the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
In his speech, party leader Leader Jagmeet Singh reminded the Liberals about a community in northern Ontario.
“I also want to talk about Grassy Narrows, a community that represents the injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced,” he said.
“The people of Grassy Narrows, who are so resilient, in the face of neglect and negligence and being ignored and being told they don’t matter, being ridiculed we brought the national campaign to Grassy Narrows that they do matter.”
Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle ran for the NDP in the Kenora riding but lost to Conservative Eric Melillo.
The Green Party made similar promises in its platform to Indigenous peoples, including working toward the creation of legislation called the Indigenous Lands and Treaties Tribunal Act, “to establish an independent body that will decide on specific claims.”
The Greens also want to negotiate hunting, fishing, trapping and logging rights on traditional lands, affirm inherent rights of Indigenous communities to determine child and family services, support the development of Indigenous education curricula, and end drinking water and boil water advisories.
But the issues that will be addressed ultimately depend on who the Liberals choose to work with, and whether any coalition partners make Indigenous-related policies or legislation a condition of their support.
There are some issues where the Liberals and Conservatives agree, such as the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, and that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal settlement order for First Nations children and their families should undergo a judicial review.
In terms of getting work done, Robert Jago, another panelist on APTN’s election night special, said people will have to wait and see what happens.
“We’re making a lot of assumptions about Liberals pairing with the NDP in a minority situation and trying to appease them, but they could just as easily pair with the Tories, a block of Tories or a block of Bloc easts and so forth,” he said. “And then we don’t know how it goes.”
(Journalist Robert Jago said that which party or parties the Liberals decide to cooperate with in any minority coalition could drastically impact how the Trudeau government handles Indigenous-related policies.)
“I mean, realistically, if you look at what the Liberals have been doing over the last couple of years, like build a pipeline as an example, fighting the judgement on child welfare — these are things they agree with the Tories on and not the NDP; and I don’t know how those two will work together.”
Jago said a Liberal-NDP coalition government could result in a “very big mass of progress,” while a Liberal concessions to the Conservatives could result in “a total freeze — and we see Indigenous people in open conflict – civil conflict — you know, with people who are building this pipeline through our land.”
A Liberal-NDP coalition could also pave the way for UNDRIP to be legislated.
After the Senate defeated former NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private members bill before Parliament rose in June, the Liberals promised that if re-elected they would introduce new legislation as a government bill that, if passed, would bring Canadian law in line with the declaration’s guiding principles.
The NDP, Greens, and Bloc Quebecois all included a commitment to UNDRIP in their platforms. The Conservatives did not.
“I need to see more leadership from the prime minister to take this whole reconciliation aspect and reinvigorate and challenge Canadians, challenge corporations, challenge parties and to really create those conversations and award communities, reward corporations, industry to make those headways and create that accountability,” said Pitseolak Pfeifer on Monday night’s APTN panel.
Liberal Jordan Ames-Sinclair was hoping to take down Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in the riding of Regina-Qu’Appelle but he fell well short.
“I’m perplexed,” he said in an interview after the results were known.
“Indigenous people in the riding won’t have a voice.”
Ames-Sinclair was one of 62 Indigenous candidates in the general election – a record number.
At the time of publication Elections Canada was reporting that, while the Conservatives will be the official opposition, they also won the popular vote.
“I will say that I bet the Conservatives have a different view on electoral reform now,” added Jago.