CBC News — Anger at Stephen Harper, disenfranchisement fuelled aboriginal voter turnout, say activists
A record 10 aboriginal MPs were elected when the Liberals swept to power Monday, ending the Conservative rule of almost a decade. In Kenora, where aboriginal voter turnout was high, Conservative Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford went down in defeat.
Although Elections Canada has not calculated national aboriginal voter turnout yet, chiefs say the election "awoke a sleeping giant" amongst a usually quiet electorate. When some polling stations ran out of ballots, Cameron said no one walked away in disgust. They just waited until another batch was brought in.
Leah Gazan, a First Nations activist and education instructor at the University of Winnipeg, said the turnout was a direct reaction to the divisive tactics of the Harper government. Bringing in Bill C-51 — which many felt criminalized First Nations activists — and cutting funding for aboriginal organizations while weakening environmental protection only strengthened the resolve of First Nations voters, she said.
"He was quite violent with indigenous people through aggressive cuts and aggressive legislation that aimed to silence indigenous people," Gazan said. "As much as he attempted to divide, he really brought people on Turtle Island together."
It's not clear how sustainable the political engagement is, she said. The Liberals have made a lot of promises to First Nations people, not least of which is to call an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
But this election has shown aboriginal voters are a force to be reckoned with, Gazan said.
"Part of the reason why they don't pay attention is because of voter turnout — it doesn't impact their privilege," she said. "With a higher indigenous turnout, they'll know they can't take it for granted."
CBC News. (2015, October 25). Anger at Stephen Harper, disenfranchisement fuelled aboriginal voter turnout, say activists | CBC News. Retrieved January 13, 2019, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/aboriginal-vote-disenfranchisement-harper-1.3288010