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Rocking the indigenous vote in Manitoba

Bringing issues to fore, voters to polls

Althea Guiboche is the Manitoba Liberal Party candidate in the Point Douglas constituency.

TREVOR HAGAN/ WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Althea Guiboche is the Manitoba Liberal Party candidate in the Point Douglas constituency.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/2/2016 (1251 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of determined aboriginal activists plans to rock the indigenous vote in the provincial election.

Indigenous Rock the Vote was active during the federal campaign last October.

A second incarnation has taken form, this time with a focus on Broadway, as it works to get more aboriginal people voting April 19. The group has attracted more than 500 members to its Facebook group,

With many of the same organizers as last fall’s federal election, the group’s objective is similar: get indigenous people voting and make sure they have the information needed to vote.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/2/2016 (1251 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of determined aboriginal activists plans to rock the indigenous vote in the provincial election.

Indigenous Rock the Vote was active during the federal campaign last October. 

A second incarnation has taken form, this time with a focus on Broadway, as it works to get more aboriginal people voting April 19. The group has attracted more than 500 members to its Facebook group, 

With many of the same organizers as last fall’s federal election, the group’s objective is similar: get indigenous people voting and make sure they have the information needed to vote.

"I just think people are more aware of the issues going on and are more interested in voting and knowing they have a voice after what happened in the federal election,’ said organizer Della Mason, who also worked on the federal Rock the Vote campaign. 

Mason said they are only beginning to organize the masses — in Manitoba about 17 per cent of the population identify as aboriginal — and hope to hold forums featuring candidates and help get people registered to vote.

In northern Manitoba, Rock the Vote organizer Rhonda Head is working to get the north to the polls in April. In 2011, northern Manitoba constituencies, which have high aboriginal populations, had the lowest turnout in the province with Flin Flon, Thompson, Kewatinook and The Pas all having turnout less than 36 per cent. Her goal is to ensure northern communities have the right identification, get enumerated by Elections Manitoba and have all the information on who is running.

"Everyone’s vote is important, and we want to vote in a government that works with indigenous people,’ said Head, who lives in The Pas constituency currently held by New Democrat Amanda Lathlin, the province’s first female First Nations MLA. 

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs described the outcome of the federal election as the awakening of a "sleeping giant.’ Although Elections Canada hasn’t calculated aboriginal voter turnout, in ridings heavily populated by indigenous people, such as Churchill-Keewatinook Aski and Winnipeg Centre, turnout increased by 45 and 26 per cent, respectively.

Head said her goal is to match the increases federally across northern Manitoba April 19.

So far, a wealth of high-profile First Nations candidates, including author and broadcaster Wab Kinew (Fort Rouge) for the NDP and Althea Guiboche (also known as the Bannock Lady) for the Liberals in Point Douglas, have thrown their hats in the ring. Last week, Nahanni Fontaine, a nationally recognized advocate for indigenous women, announced she will seek the nomination in St. Johns for the NDP. 

Niigaan Sinclair, the University of Manitoba’s head of native studies, explained it has only been recently aboriginal issues were part of party platforms, adding aboriginal people only received the right to vote in 1960.

"The premier doesn’t show up at every candidate announcement,’ Sinclair said, referencing Premier Greg Selinger’s appearance and speech at Kinew’s candidacy announcement. "He (Selinger) comes because he is invested in trying to attain some of the vote involving indigenous issues and people.’

He said the Liberals, with at least six aboriginal candidates, are challenging the NDP, which once had a lock on the indigenous vote.

The Progressive Conservatives have nominated five indigenous candidates.

"Major inroads can be made to benefit indigenous communities when indigenous peoples are at the table,’ said Sinclair, citing Point Douglas MLA Kevin Chief as an example.

Author and political analyst Chris Adams studied the correlation between aboriginal candidates and aboriginal voter turnout. He said the perceived competition of this year’s election and the stronger presence of the Liberal party will likely increase general voter turnout beyond 2011’s 56 per cent.

In Point Douglas, which had 44 per cent voter turnout in 2011, Adams predicts the Guiboche-versus-Chief race will send aboriginal voters to the polls.

"We’re seeing candidates running in seats where they have a viable chance of winning, so that is significant,’ Adams said. "The parties are attracting good candidates with aboriginal backgrounds and secondly I think people will vote who are aboriginal if they feel there is somebody from their community running.’

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

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History

Updated on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 6:55 AM CST: Adds photo

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