Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Voters send aboriginal school trustees packing

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After the ballots were counted, Winnipeg's two aboriginal school trustees were part of the campaign's casualties.

Sonia Prevost-Derbecker lost her seat in ward 3 of Winnipeg School Division, and Rockford McKay finished barely out of the running in the Silver Heights-Booth ward of St. James-Assiniboia School Division.

McKay was only seven votes out of third place, and is asking for a recount. "I've put in a call to city hall. I'm seeking a recount," said McKay.

No other aboriginal candidates won a school board seat, including Myra Laramee, the nationally honoured retired aboriginal educator who had the backing of the NDP in WSD's ward 2.

"I'm very surprised she didn't get in," McKay said.

"The aboriginal population of school-aged kids is the fastest-growing population in Winnipeg," McKay said Thursday.

"I'm a little concerned" the city has no aboriginal trustees on its school boards, said McKay, adding he campaigned to represent everybody in the division.

Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg president Damon Johnston said he was not surprised.

"It's just from experience in aboriginal communities all over the country, in cities," said Johnston. "Sometimes, letting people know you're aboriginal isn't a good thing.

"There's still a little bit of discrimination and prejudice out there," he said.

Johnston said some countries, such as New Zealand, set seats aside for indigenous candidates to ensure they're represented in systems in which their children go to school.

"If the electoral process isn't going to provide that, what means do we have to bring that voice to the table?" Johnston said.

He said having no aboriginal trustees in the city will help the aboriginal council's still-fledgling project to ask the province to create an aboriginal public school division in the city.

"It would probably strengthen our hand in some ways," if aboriginal people need their own school division to have a voice in governance, Johnston said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2010 A12

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