It appears that citizens from our communities are participating more and more in Canada’s Federal election. Some believe that engaging in the process will help our communities ensure that we are receiving our fair funding from Canada. Some think that we should not be involved, and should be working on our own self-governance models. What makes us unique is we usually block vote for one specific political party, which bodes well for them but rarely for our communities.
What really happens during an election year? We hear the same things over and over again. All the promises come out such as: “we must engage with our First Nations in a Nation to Nation relationship; we’re going in there and will clean up- we’ll ensure that communities are equipped with the proper infrastructure to deal with the (place any major community epidemic in this space) crisis.” But nothing really changes.
So what will bring changes to our communities? Perhaps, if we are buying into the Canadian system we need more representation in Parliament. There have been 16 First Nation Members of Parliament since 1932 from all over the country and from the three parties. In recent history we recognize names like Tina Keeper and Romeo Saganash. Both have since retired from politics.
It is an honour to know our people have stood strong and proud in Parliament, although begs the question of whether they were token Nish. Imagine fighting in a system built to discard the very people same people Canada has failed to represent. Today we have distinguished brilliant minds in legislature’s and parliament most notably Sol Mamakwa (North Western Ontario) and Wab Kinew (Manitoba). Each are respectively working diligently as our voices in these institutions. Kudos to you fellows. Excitingly, former Deputy Grand Chief Anna-Betty Achnepineskum will be running in this Federal election in the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding.
How can Canada make the involvement of First Nation, Inuit and Métis people in Parliament more meaningful? Perhaps, if Canada altered their plan for integrating First People’s into the Canadian political fabric, space should be made in Parliament for our Chiefs to represent our communities in Ottawa.
In this new integrated Parliament, the Chiefs’ presence ensures our voices and our collective valued vote is counted. At least in this forum we would have the ability to create our own destiny and ensure our values and principals are being represented. Mainly, we would be privy to what Canada wants to do with our land and be within the circles of what appears to be manipulated scenarios.
How would this work with the Indian Act? People say that the greatest harm that came from the Indian Act was the political system and the notorious Indian Act Chief. The Act saw us become wards of the state and this imposed system dismantled the hereditary Chief and clan system. Every clan and each person had a vote and voice in those old system systems. The Indian Act system removed the grassroots voice from the community and promoted political apathy. This is the greatest power that stands over us: our ability to voice our concerns through a vote. Although, when apathetic, the loss of interest in the political system, causes us to ignore our right to exercise our vote. This lack of engagement in the political system makes sure we have no influence in decision making.
This October we will hear a whole new set of promises and we will be left to figure out how to to keep the government du jour accountable. How do we ensure that the funds transferred to our communities are obligatory due to the Treaties and not the fictional living off taxpayer money? Where do we fit in a system that is not natural to our communities? Will we ever have self-governance as it relates to the responsibilities of citizenry within our territories where we choose our own course in life?
As they say, Rome was not built in a day, and we cannot sit idly by as the culture of our communities are heavily influenced by Canada. In the meantime, while building our governance structures, we should participate in the Canadian Election system. So this year we could use more of our people voting in this election. Vote strategically, do your best to research all the candidates and their party principals, vote wisely for the party that will work with our Chiefs and Councils to ensure that we are prosperous in our homelands.