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Drawing aboriginal voters to polls

Liberal candidates attend event at Thunderbird House

Robert-Falcon Ouellette and other Liberals celebrate the 55th anniversary of indigenous voting rights.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Robert-Falcon Ouellette and other Liberals celebrate the 55th anniversary of indigenous voting rights.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/4/2015 (1602 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FEDERAL Liberal candidates want indigenous people to know their vote counts.

In order to press the point, Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Rebecca Chartrand led a slate of federal Liberal candidates at Thunderbird House on Main Street Tuesday to mark the 55th anniversary of First Nations and Inuit voting rights.

About 50 people, including indigenous and non-indigenous supporters of the candidates, showed up for the noon-hour event, sharing a pipe ceremony and standing to honour indigenous songs to the beat of hand drums.

"Thirty nine per cent -- that's the percentage of people who didn't come out to vote in the last election, and that's unfortunate," Ouellette after he and Chartrand delivered speeches and introduced candidates. "There were 14 ridings won by less than 7,000 votes, and if we just had an extra percentage point come out across the country, we would have had a different government. It may have been a minority government, but the difference could have been substantial in the way we do social programming or anything."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/4/2015 (1602 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FEDERAL Liberal candidates want indigenous people to know their vote counts.

In order to press the point, Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Rebecca Chartrand led a slate of federal Liberal candidates at Thunderbird House on Main Street Tuesday to mark the 55th anniversary of First Nations and Inuit voting rights.

About 50 people, including indigenous and non-indigenous supporters of the candidates, showed up for the noon-hour event, sharing a pipe ceremony and standing to honour indigenous songs to the beat of hand drums.

"Thirty nine per cent — that's the percentage of people who didn't come out to vote in the last election, and that's unfortunate," Ouellette after he and Chartrand delivered speeches and introduced candidates. "There were 14 ridings won by less than 7,000 votes, and if we just had an extra percentage point come out across the country, we would have had a different government. It may have been a minority government, but the difference could have been substantial in the way we do social programming or anything."

Ouellette said the Liberals oppose new federal rules that make it harder for marginalized groups, including First Nations, to produce the identification they need to cast a vote.

"It doesn't matter if you are a billionaire or homeless living under a bridge. We all have a vote, and no one should be able to take (it) away," Ouellette said in his speech.

The Fair Elections Act requires voters to prove their identity with government identification that includes a photo and current address or two pieces of ID, such as a health-care card and a phone bill or a debit card and a bank statement, which is difficult for some to produce. In the past, federal laws allowed for voter ID cards and for vouching.

Ouellette, whom voters swept from political obscurity to third place in last year's mayoralty election, is running in the 2015 federal election in Winnipeg Centre.

Chartrand, who ran a campaign against city councillor Mike Pagtakhan in the same election in Point Douglas, is running in the Churchill riding.

The event paid tribute to March 31, 1960, the date when then-governor general Georges Vanier gave royal assent to a bill that extended the right to vote to Inuit and First Nations, a right denied on reserves under the federal Indian Act.

"The Indian Act limited our participation in Canadian society," Chartrand said in her speech, stressing the discrimination was a historic injustice.

In an effort to galvanize the aboriginal vote, inner-city activists have rolled out a social-media campaign, modelled on the success of a similar campaign called Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote in last year's civic election.

One of its organizers, Lisa Forbes, said the new Facebook site, Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote in the 42nd Federal Election, informs people of the new laws and advertises voter ID clinics to navigate the system.

"Indigenous Rock the Vote is here to celebrate the right to vote. And it's about helping First Nations to be able to vote, because the new laws make it harder," Forbes said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 7:58 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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