Today Canada sits on a precipice wavering as to which side it will fall off on. If Canada falls off the precipice and goes with the same old Harper government, our economy will continue to be in recession, personal privacy and security will keep on being sacrificed for power to the state, democracy will continue to be forsaken for doing business by omnibus bills, climate change will not be addressed and environmental standards will be lowered even more in the name of development and sovereignty will be even more eroded through Free Trade Agreements. With a Harper Government, First Nations will be forced to use courts, defend the land and use international processes to get any kind of progress.
Falling off the precipice in the other direction will mean another government where change is possible. Dare we imagine a Canada that can undo the damage that the Harper government wrought? For all who are tired of Harper’s rule over the past 10 years, hope is a strong emotion being felt leading up to this election.
It is an election like no other and there has never been so much at stake. Record voter turnout at the advance polls show people want change. Polls on election day promise to have long line ups. For the first time, many First Nations leaders have been encouraging their people to vote and they can make a difference. More First Nations people then ever before are running to be MP’s wanting to make change.
As a First Nation person who has always been interested in politics and politicians and how issues about First Nations are handled, I have seen more about First Nations than ever before in an election, but that doesn’t say much. The biggest coverage and controversy I seen was whether First Nations people should vote or not. .
There were no questions about First Nations asked in any of the debates. None. As if the issues weren’t important. As if First Nations rights are not creating uncertainty over development of mega projects across this land. As if resolving long outstanding title issues and rights is not a compelling legal and moral obligation. As if the 1200 plus murdered and missing women are not a critical problem needing immediate action. As if First Nations living conditions including clean drinking water are not bringing down the standard of living in this country.
All the party platforms discuss First Nations issues. Harper’s platform isn’t worth reading and he maintains the same positions he has held for First Nations, that is holding us back financially, disrespecting constitutionally protected rights and allowing development to destroy ecosystems that support our rights and way of life.
Muclair and Trudeau make a lot of promises, promises, and more promises. Have they walked their talk in the years leading up to the election? Have they bothered to develop relationships in a comprehensive way? Have they spent time with First Nations communities to decide what their priorities and needs are? I think of the trail of broken promises when I hear these promises. Trust does not come easy.
The Green Party commits to develop solutions collectively. They want to tackle climate change that is affecting the resources we depend on to exercise our rights such as fish. They understand the implications that free trade agreements and Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection agreements wreak on First Nations lands and resources.
Different First Nations have different priorities across the country and all are crucial to them. There is no one solution. Some are common like the Missing and Murdered indigenous women, and implementing the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation. Resolving aboriginal title in British Columbia is a priority issue in BC but no one is talking about it. Education, child care, health, housing, poverty, are all important issues that only get worse as the federal government does not work with First Nations to find the mechanisms to resolve these issues.
I don’t feel that there has been a good discussion of important issues that affect First Nations during this election. I don’t think that there has been enough time spent educating the general public on what First Nations issues are and why they are important and how it impacts on their lives. I don’t feel that First Nations have been given any kind of priority in this election and they should have been. It is for lack of trying as First Nations voices are not being heard in a substantive way as of yet.
Whichever way Canada falls off that precipice on Monday, October 19th, it is for sure that First Nations and our issues are not going away. These issues will just become more critical and urgent the longer they are overlooked. More international attention will be paid to the conditions First Nations people live in and the political and legal quagmire that we find ourselves in. Whoever becomes government in this election has a lot of work to do to keep Canada from sliding off that precipice into a void that cannot be fixed.
O Canada, your home is on Native land, whoever is the next government, now it is past the time to make First Nations a priority. The time for reckoning is now.