Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Voting has lost its lustre

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Voting, schmoting. We're only one week into another campaign and already I've come down with a serious case of voter apathy.

Yes, me -- the person who's usually a voting cheerleader when it comes to elections, calling for all aboriginal people to get out and vote. And it doesn't end there.

I used to watch my mailbox for my voter card and tack it to the kitchen corkboard. As election day gets closer, I find myself gently harassing my relatives to come with me to vote.

I don't even care who you vote for, as long as you vote. I've been voting ever since I could. Municipal, provincial, federal, it didn't matter. I show up to cast my ballot.

But now it's different. I grumble while watching campaign coverage on the evening news.

Maybe it's because it seems like we've been down this path a few too many times.

I'm no pundit, but my guess is in a few weeks we're just going to end up with another minority Conservative government. So it's same old, same old. What's the point?

Maybe I'm not into voting anymore because I never see much in it for aboriginal people. The way it is now -- and the way it's been for the past few decades I've been alive -- is many First Nation communities are facing issues that never seem to go away.

Sure, there's a blip on the media radar once in a while that catches everyone's attention, but nothing ever really gets solved.

It's always "That's so awful -- we need to do something."

Then, over a week or two, there's a bunch of bureaucratic finger-pointing that eventually fades into a soft roar. Then silence.

We get bored with the aboriginal dilemma because we hear it over and over, year after year. It isn't as "sexy" as, say, the latest big story that's erupted in the media. Those other stories are equally important, of course -- don't get me wrong.

But why can't we deal with matters at home with the same kind of vigour?

Somehow, people get the wrong idea about aboriginal issues because there's something called "treaty rights." People think it means we're living a good life at the expense of taxpayers. Like it's all our fault for what's going on and we're not even trying to help ourselves, or solve the issues on our own.

We are. It's just not working as fast because you've got over 100 years of oppression, dependency and apathy to overcome. Change comes slow in Indian Country. It's hard to be a ward of "the great white father" -- Indian Affairs.

So excuse my sudden lapse of voting energy. I am officially jaded.

I've been voting all my life and nothing has really changed. When are aboriginal issues ever going to be included in campaign promises?

Parties in power change, leaders change, even the size of the lapels on their suits change. But that's it. Those promises they tell you they'll keep often don't include us. Throne speeches make vague references that never seem to reach fruition.

And nobody seems to notice.

We are to blame, too. Aboriginal people don't vote as much as regular Canadians. That's sad, considering in some countries people show up at the polls even with the threat of death hanging in the air.

I couldn't see it before, but now I understand why.

Maybe I'm taking the traditional route. They say we used to vote with our feet. If we didn't like what our leader was telling us, then we'd walk away, pack our bags and move to another location.

Because if you don't have the support of the community you serve, you're not a leader.

So how do we get engaged in mainstream politics?

We need politicians who want our vote, but that means getting out and voting. Politicians don't care about people who don't vote, so they don't do anything for you.

If we voted, then politicians would do more for us. And we need cheerleaders to get us to vote.

Hopefully I'll lighten up and pick up my pom-poms before it's too late.

 

Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg freelance writer.

colleen.simard@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2011 J6

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