Manitoba First Nations outline priorities for federal leaders

·3 min read

Indigenous leaders gathered virtually on Wednesday to discuss the issues they say are important to them as we close in on next week’s federal election and to push for more First Nations people in Manitoba to get out and vote.

A Facebook live event hosted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) on Wednesday was dubbed ‘I am First Nations and I Vote,’ and brought several members of Manitoba’s Indigenous leadership together for a virtual town hall to discuss the issues they believe are important to focus on regarding Monday’s federal election.

AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas began by voicing his disappointment because he said previously promised meetings between Manitoba’s Indigenous leadership and some federal parties did not end up taking place.

“A month ago we had sent out a letter to all the federal leaders asking that we could have a conversation with them, to ask them about their platforms, and to ask them what their priorities are with First Nations,” Dumas said.

“We did have commitments from the Liberals, the NDP, and the Conservatives surprisingly, but unfortunately that deadline was this week, they had all committed that they would make themselves available, but they haven’t for whatever reason.

“It’s unfortunate, and I believe that reflects poorly on all of them, so if they don’t want to come to us we are going to let our voices be heard loud and clear here today.”

During the meeting Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse noted that AFN has publicly released a document titled ‘The Healing Path Forward,’ that she said lays out what AFN is looking for and focused on regarding the upcoming election and its results.

The document lays out five specific action items AFN wants to see focused on by the next federal government.

The five priorities are listed as truth, reconciliation and healing for First Nations and all Canadians, climate and conservation leadership with First Nations, economic growth, prosperity and wealth-building for First Nations, promoting peace by respecting First Nations’ jurisdiction, and rebuilding and strengthening First Nations.

Woodhouse said that if First Nations people don’t get out and vote the issues they are focused on could be overlooked by the next government.

“It is so important that we vote and pay attention to these issues because everything affects us,” Woodhouse said. “Your vote matters, and when these people make decisions they look at which communities vote, so get out and vote, it’s so important.”

She added she believes federal leaders need to start paying a lot more attention to First Nations issues, because of growth in First Nations communities.

“Our population is growing at a faster rate than the Canadian population and is younger, our population is growing both on and off reserves,” Woodhouse said.

“All parties should be chasing the First Nation’s vote.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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