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This article was published 21/10/2019 (401 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In a high-profile battle that pitted two Indigenous candidates in a riding with among the highest Indigenous population, it was the NDP who took back the political turf the Liberals won in 2015

Leah Gazan, a 47-year-old human rights activist and educator, defeated Liberal incumbent Robert-Falcon Ouellette in a close race in Winnipeg Centre.

"It's a people's movement. We did it!" Gazan exclaimed at a packed West End Cultural Centre.

Gazan, a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation in Saskatchewan, had been favoured to retake the former longtime NDP stronghold for the New Democrats.

However, her victory was not assured until late in the evening.

Supporters of Leah Gazan celebrate at the West End Cultural Centre. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Supporters of Leah Gazan celebrate at the West End Cultural Centre. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Pat Martin represented the area in Parliament from 1997 to 2015, but fell to Ouellette, 42, four years ago as the Liberals under Justin Trudeau swept to power.

With about two-thirds of the polls reporting on Monday evening, Gazan held 40 per cent of the vote to Ouellette’s 34 per cent, and Conservative Ryan Dyck had 18 per cent.

"My greatest challenge in this election was ourselves, our own governing party," Ouellette said when asked about the strength of the campaign Gazan ran. "It was not the opponent we were facing. We are going to have to look within and re-evaluate how we function."

Gazan, a former president of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, took a leave from her teaching position with University of Winnipeg to seek office. She defeated Andrew Swan, a former MLA and provincial cabinet minister, for the NDP nomination at a meeting in March that drew 900 party members.

Poverty, a lack of affordable, accessible social housing, a shortage of mental health services, the meth crisis and climate change are among the hot-button issue in the riding.

More than 40 per cent of the riding's children live in poverty -- third worst among federal electoral districts, according to a recent report from an anti-poverty organization.

-- Larry Kusch and Martin Cash