In northern Ontario the federal NDP are turning to First Nations candidates in an effort to harness the Indigenous vote.
A number of Indigenous leaders have joined the New Democrats in an effort to unseat the governing Liberals in a riding that’s home to about 60 First Nations and more than 10,000 on-reserve voters.
One of the party’s new candidates is Rudy Turtle, chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation in the province’s Kenora riding.
Grassy Narrows has suffered from mercury poisoning for decades.
Turtle said in recent years the NDP has stood out as the part that cares about the people of Grassy Narrows.
“They’ve spoke on our behalf really strongly — like, Charlie Angus has really spoke up and same with Nikki Ashton,” said Turtle.
“So, I felt that because they’ve been speaking up for Grassy that it would be the right place, the right combination.”
Anna Betty Achneepineskum, a former deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, has thrown her name in the hat for the riding of Thunder Bay–Superior North.
“The NDP has made a full commitment to ensure that we fulfill, whether it’s safe drinking water, housing, employment — it’s all part of our New Deal,” she said. “It’s very important that First Nations people are part of this process.”
In 2015 former NDP candidate Tania Cameron led the grassroots First Nations Rock the Vote campaign — one that helped increase voter turnout in the last federal election.
“I originally intended to focus on the Kenora riding because there’s 42 First Nations here and I ran it as a non-partisan project,” she told APTN News. “This time around I’ve committed to work for the NDP and get Rudy Turtle elected in the federal election.”
The NDP hired Cameron this election to help the party get Turtle and Achneepineskum elected.
In 2015 voter turnout on-reserve across the country increased by about 14 per cent, according to Elections Canada.
Cameron said Indigenous voters united to oust the Harper Conservatives.
“In this election it’s going to be what matters to the individual Indigenous voter,” she said. “For some of us, like myself personally, it’s about climate change and the climate crisis we are currently in. [For] others, it’s electoral reform, it’s people unhappy the Trudeau Liberals buying the pipeline and not putting in the safety regulations, environmental regulations on our waters and lakes. It’s a variety of issues.”
Achneepinekum said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has let down First Nations people.
“There was a lot of promises made, and the TRC report and MMIW Inquiry — those were all opportunities for them to ensure that that mandate of reconciliation and ensuring that they acknowledge the first people of this country was fulfilled, and that has not happened,” she said.