Manitoba First Nations leaders say they’re non-partisan despite endorsing Liberal candidate in front of NDP leader

Chiefs insist they support Liberal candidate Shirley Robinson because more First Nations representation needed in Parliament

Two First Nations organizations in Manitoba will support a Liberal candidate in Manitoba’s most northern riding in the upcoming election.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) made the announcement at a meet and greet with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on the campaign trail in Winnipeg late last week.

“We do our part to try and engage our communities to make informed decisions on whatever political decisions they make, fundamentally the assembly is non-partisan but we support all strong leaders,” said (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas at the event.

“In my view being non-partisan, we still have to be working with whoever’s in government because ultimately they make decisions and it’s up to each and every individual who they decide to vote for but at the same time from an Indigenous lens we have to be mindful of the history, the colonial history that has plagued our nations for so long and we want to make sure that our people are informed, that they can vote from an informed position,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.

Dumas made his organization’s position clear, to support First Nations candidates first.

“To all of our allies and everybody watching, we have to support our First Nations candidates in the spirit of Elijah Harper. Keep in mind that Elijah Harper was flying a specific colour who the majority of the party had made a decision without the involvement and participation of First Nations and Elijah chose not to toe the party line and Elijah actually preserved and protected this country and this constitution on behalf of all of us together we can all celebrate that today. So in the spirit of Elijah Harper we will always advance our First Nation candidates,” Dumas said.

He endorsed First Nations Liberal candidate Shirley Robinson who is running in the Churchill—Keewatinook Aski riding.

“On that level being an elected official for the past two decades, I think that it’s time for a fresh start in the north and I absolutely support Shirley Robinson and her candidacy,” he said.

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee then stepped in. “I concur with that comment,” he said.

MKO represents 26 northern Manitoba First Nations in treaties 4, 5, 6 and 10.

“We have a vested interest in what happens in Canada when it comes to Indigenous people and we continue to support Indigenous people as they run and our people are non-partisan as we said but of course we will support our Indigenous people wherever they are,” Settee said.

Seventy-five per cent of the people are Indigenous in the Churchill—Keewatinook Aski riding according to the latest census.

Robinson is from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, and has been elected five times as a band councillor in her community. She’s facing a tough incumbent in NDP candidate Niki Ashton who won for the fourth time two years ago, and has held the seat since 2008.

“I have been honoured to receive support from so many Indigenous people in the 5 elections that I have been a candidate,” Ashton said in an emailed statement.

“I am seeking their support again to continue the fight for improvements to health, housing, education and infrastructure. The fight for justice for Indigenous and northern communities continues.”

Another organization representing First Nations in Manitoba, the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) will not be endorsing a candidate.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said they will take a wait and see approach to the election.

“We have endorsed previously but because we’ve seen a lot of humming and hawing this year we’re not taking an endorsement position this year. We’ve had chiefs who are supportive of a particular candidates, we are waiting to see what sort of action can take place with the different parties, you know we may see a change in government, who knows you know it’s sort of up in the air right now,” he said.

APTN News reached out to Robinson but she was not available prior to broadcast deadline. After this story was posted she sent us a statement.

“Grand Chief Dumas and Grand Chief Settee are not endorsing a party,” Robinson said, “they are endorsing an Indigenous candidate who resides in the riding where 3 out of 4 voters are Indigenous, one who understands our core issues.”

Charlotte Larocque is a Métis entrepreneur who is running for the Conservatives while Ralph Klein is running for the Green Party.

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