Indigenous policy platforms offer civic choice
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2022 (228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s mayoral hopefuls have been pitching platforms to Indigenous voters.
On Oct. 18, seven of the 11 candidates participated in a debate hosted by Treaty 1 chiefs. This weekend, a candidates’ debate will be hosted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
With the recent census data showing more than one-eighth of the capital city’s population is Indigenous (13 per cent), any Winnipeg mayoral candidate must have targeted initiatives and plans to engage work towards Indigenous inclusion and reconciliation.
Some candidates have made a lot of promises. Some have none at all. Others spend airtime spreading misinformed nonsense.
Among the Indigenous policy platforms of the six leading mayoral candidates — Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray and Robert-Falcon Ouellette, according to recent polling — are wide-scale promises.
Gillingham is seeking to expand on his past track record.
As a councillor, he endorsed First Nations to pursue green energy goals in the city and supported the hiring of more Indigenous civic staff. He also has promised to expand training for municipal staff on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action and expand the city archives to support Indigenous languages.
Due to his support of urban reserves and treaty land entitlement, Gillingham has the endorsement of former Long Plain First Nation chief Dennis Meeches and other leaders, such as Indigenous Leadership Development Institute chief executive officer Rosa Walker.
Klein’s promises have been shadowed by his complex claims to Indigenous identity. Klein has claimed to be a “Métis Canadian” and a member of the Painted Feather Woodland Métis — a group that has no recognition as an Indigenous nation or community.
Klein’s policy platform is scant, consisting mostly of vows to create an “Indigenous economic development officer” position within the city to create “Indigenous economic zones.” (The problem: there already exists a successful, Indigenous-led model, called urban reserves.)
Klein has also promised to make Indigenous Advisory Council meetings public and has no major Indigenous leader endorsements.
The mayoral candidate with the most expansive promises for Indigenous communities is Loney. He also has a long track record working with Indigenous communities through founding social enterprises, such as BUILD and Purpose Construction, which helps Indigenous peoples with criminal records find jobs.
Loney has also promised to provide wide-ranging support for Indigenous business development in the city, training for Indigenous people to enter the civil service, and developing a $100-million community land trust to support Indigenous communities.
Loney also has vowed to expand city plans to rename public spaces and expand volunteer initiatives, such as the Ikwe Safe Rides service for Indigenous women.
Loney is endorsed by leaders such as Jessica Dumas (former chairwoman of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce) and elder Mae Louise Campbell.
Motkaluk has spent more time attacking Indigenous organizations and leaders then promising anything. This week, Motkaluk accused the AMC of promoting a “false and divisive narrative” that “guilt(s) Canadians into abandoning their love of Canada,” due to its support of administrators at The Forks altering Canada Day celebrations this year.
Motkaluk has no notable Indigenous endorsements, and outgoing Mayor Brian Bowman has inferred her election would “turn the clock back” on reconciliation.
Murray’s promises have focused on converting many of the city’s social services to supporting Indigenous communities — particularly in the area of addictions and poverty. He has vowed in particular to “restore Thunderbird House” and direct city resources to turn it back into a “sacred space.”
Murray frequently quotes that, as Winnipeg mayor from 1998-2004, the city became one of the first to introduce treaty land entitlement, which has led to today’s urban reserve and economic development projects.
Murray has been endorsed by Indigenous leaders such as Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson and Judy Klassen (former Liberal MLA for Keewatinook).
Ouellette has promised to turn Winnipeg into a tourist destination for Indigenous culture. He has also made broad promises — albeit un-costed and unspecific — to address addiction and homelessness, alongside safety issues for Indigenous women in the city.
Ouellette, of Cree and Métis ancestry and from Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, and has made a part of his campaign announcements: “Something radical… maybe it’s time for a First Nations Indigenous leader of the city.”
Indigenous voters have their most widest set of policy platforms to choose from in civic election history. That may be the most important step of all.
Niigaan Sinclair is Anishinaabe and is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press.