July 10, 2020

19° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

Activists working hard to engage aboriginals, get out the vote

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/9/2015 (1753 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

"OUR citizens are getting organized, and they will be voting in this election."

Those were the words of national Chief Perry Bellegarde, the leader of Canada's largest aboriginal group, after last week's debate. He said party leaders failed to offer plans to close the gap in the quality of life between aboriginals and other Canadians.

"The buzz is starting to happen, the educational awareness is starting to happen, the feeling of empowerment is starting to grow that we will really have an impact," Assembly of First Nations Chief Bellegarde told the Free Press recently.

Traditionally, the percentage of indigenous people who vote has been lower than the Canadian average. Only 37.6 per cent of the eligible population on Manitoba's indigenous reserves voted in the 2011 federal election. The average nationwide was 58.8 per cent.

This year, as aboriginal issues have become more publicized, voting is more urgent than ever, said Sylvia Boudreau of Winnipeg's Indigenous Rock the Vote.

Similar to the 2014 civic election, Indigenous Rock the Vote has been working for months to make the indigenous vote on par with the Canadian average.

Boudreau noted a lot of the policies that affect those in the aboriginal community are under the authority of the federal government, as opposed to municipal and provincial governments.

While the group remained non-partisan during last year's civic election, she said this time around it appears the community wants change.

"Whether that comes from a Liberal, NDP or even Green, I don't know for sure, but I think they have had enough with what has gone on," she said, citing examples with the environment.

Sylvia Boudreau of the Indigenous Rock The Vote committee.


Sylvia Boudreau of the Indigenous Rock The Vote committee.

So far, the group has had one organizational meeting in which 20 people attended a brainstorming session about how to get more indigenous people to the polls. They hope to hold a rally before the Oct. 19 vote.

Wayne Mason, a concerned citizen who attended the meeting and has spent his life working as an educational administrator in the aboriginal community, argues voting is the "most important key to their future."

"A lot of people have been marginalized because of lack of attention from the government, but I think if we mobilize people, we can make a big difference in the federal election," Mason said.

"We need to get our people to vote and help them understand we can make a difference. We may only be 15 to 20 per cent of the population, but that is a big number. We don't use it to our advantage."

A Statistics Canada survey in 2011 showed there were 133,165 aboriginal people in Manitoba aged 15 or older; roughly 15 per cent of Manitoba's voting population in 2011.

The Assembly of First Nations has identified six ridings in Manitoba where aboriginal voters could make a significant difference: Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Winnipeg's Elmwood-Transcona, Winnipeg Centre, Winnipeg North and Winnipeg South Centre. Those ridings have large aboriginal populations. Ridings such as Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg North were won by a slim margin in 2011.

One of the first steps the group has acknowledged is getting community members proper identification, which has become even more important with the changes to the Fair Elections Act.

Second, is making sure voters are registered ahead of time, which can ensure there are no issues when people head to the polls.

The group will put up voter-registration booths at events where aboriginals gather.

It will also find more creative ways to get the message across. For example, they are looking at distributing posters that advertise the new requirements or partnering with groups such as Citizens' Bridge to help people get necessary identification.

The Facebook account, Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote in the 42nd Federal Election, serves as an information hub for people to post information on debates, candidates and voter registration.



Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.


Updated on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 8:25 AM CDT: Adds video, adds missing text, adds photo

September 24, 2015 at 9:33 AM: Removes mention of First Nations salary disclosures attributed to Boudreau.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us