First Nations leaders support Liberal candidate at NDP event

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Two Manitoba First Nations leaders backed a Liberal candidate running in the north of the province as he stood next to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at an election event.

Singh and two NDP candidates seeking re-election met with Manitoba First Nations leaders in Winnipeg last week to discuss some of the pressing issues facing Indigenous communities, such as housing and mental health.

While the chiefs said they were grateful to Singh and his team for organizing this one-on-one during a busy election campaign, they said they would support Liberal candidate Shirley Robinson at the expense of of NDP incumbent Niki Ashton in the Churchill-Keewatinook Aski race because they want more. Indigenous voices in the Parliament of Canada.

Singh vowed to renew Canada’s relations with First Nations peoples after a traumatic year when preliminary inquiries at a number of former residential school sites across the country indicated that hundreds of children could be buried on the island. ground. He said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was not doing enough to locate First Nations children who may be in these anonymous graves.

“Canada’s conscience was shaken after the first discovery of the first 215 children.… It pushes us to go beyond the words we have heard from leaders in the past – we need action,” said Singh said at a press conference. conference after the meeting, referencing findings from Kamloops, BC, earlier this year.

“We want to be allies and we want to be side by side, walk a path of justice, respect, dignity, walk this path recognizing that we should work with Indigenous communities as nation-to-nation partners” , Singh said.

“We will always advance our First Nations candidates”

But the two regional chiefs there, Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Grand Chief of Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), made it clear that their loyalty lay elsewhere – at least in one race. .

Ashton, a longtime NDP MP, is running for re-election against Robinson, a former First Nations band councilor from Cross Lake, Manitoba, in the province’s northernmost riding.

Settee said he had “nothing but respect for Jagmeet Singh on a personal level,” but he endorsed Robinson’s candidacy for the outgoing NDP chairman.

“The candidate running in our riding – she is aboriginal, and we want aboriginal people to be involved in this process,” said Settee. “We have a vested interest in what is happening in Canada as it relates to Indigenous Peoples and we continue to support Indigenous Peoples as they race. “

The MKO, which represents 26 First Nations in Manitoba’s Treaty 4, 5, 6 and 10 regions, is officially “non-partisan,” said Settee, but “we all support strong leaders.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, left, listen to Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, right, following a meeting in Winnipeg on August 26 . (Paul Chiasson / Canadian Press)

“We will always advance our First Nations candidates,” added Dumas. “I think it’s time for a fresh start in the north and I absolutely support Shirley Robinson for her candidacy,” he said, as Singh and the NDP contingent stood behind him.

The couch moved forward and said, “I agree with that comment.”

Ashton, who is not Indigenous, has long championed Indigenous and northern issues in Ottawa, pushing for an investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and for clean water on reserves, among others. She easily won the seat in the 2019 election with over 50% of the vote.

‘There was nothing brought to the North by her’

Ashton was not at the NDP press conference where Dumas and Settee supported Robinson.

Asked about Robinson’s endorsement by First Nations leaders, Singh said on Friday that “it should be very clear that I support my candidate.”

“Niki Ashton has been a strong voice for Indigenous peoples and has a proven track record, and New Democrats in general have shown that we back our words with action. People cannot afford four more years with Mr. Trudeau. he said.

“We are committed to making sure people get the help they need. The New Democrats have demonstrated time and time again that we will fight for them.

NDP MP Niki Ashton addresses reporters following a live Facebook town hall hosted by the Canadian Nurses Association in Ottawa on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)

Reached by phone Tuesday, Dumas said he maintained his endorsement, saying Ashton had “absolutely not” done a good job as an MP for the region.

“You know, she didn’t bring anything to the North. There weren’t any bills. There weren’t any further pleas. It seems Mrs Ashton is using this position for self-promotion. It seems. that, you know, she used the auspices of this office for her own personal gain and didn’t do anything for us, ”Dumas said in an interview with CBC Manitoba, referring to Ashton’s previous NDP leadership candidacy. .

Dumas said First Nations leaders were particularly disappointed with his response to the Churchill Railroad question. The railroad was taken out of service when record flooding in 2017 washed away portions of the rail line all the way to Hudson Bay, leaving northern Manitoba with no land connection to the rest of the province.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Breaks Tradition to Support Candidate in Churchill Keewatinook-Aski Northern Riding

The CMA is backing a Liberal candidate in a Manitoba riding that the NDP has held since 2008. That endorsement first happened right in front of the NDP leader. 2:11

Local First Nations leaders wanted an Indigenous-led group to own the line, but Ashton was pushing for nationalization instead, Dumas said.

The line was eventually repaired with federal funds and is now operated by Arctic Gateway Group, a coalition of local rail communities, regional First Nations, Saskatchewan grain and pulse trader AGT Food and Ingredients and the Toronto-based Fairfax Financial portfolio.

“The Premier got personally involved in this file to try to find a lasting and defensible solution for northern Manitoba,” said Dumas.

WATCH: Two Manitoba First Nations leaders support Liberal candidate at NDP event

Two Manitoba First Nations leaders support Liberal candidate at NDP event

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas explains why he is supporting Liberal candidate Shirley Robinson against NDP incumbent Niki Ashton in a race in northern Manitoba. 7:16

In a statement Tuesday, Ashton defended his record on Indigenous issues.

“I am proud to work with my NDP colleagues to fight for justice for Indigenous peoples,” she said. “I have been honored to receive the support of so many Aboriginal people in the five elections I have been a candidate for. I again ask for their support to continue the fight for the improvement of health, housing, education and infrastructure. The fight for justice for Indigenous and northern communities continues. “

The constituency is 75 percent indigenous

Robinson, the Liberal, called on First Nations people in the riding – in which about 75 percent of people identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit – to send an Indigenous person to Ottawa.

“We are the majority in this constituency,” she recently told a group of leaders, as reported by the Thompson Citizen, a local newspaper. “What we need is a loud voice from a native speaker in the halls of influence. We need an Ininiw voice in there. I am impatient and ready to be your voice,” she said, using the term for a Cree-speaking speaker.

“Sitting across from government year after year does nothing to advance our dreams as Churchill-Keewatinook Aski communities, whether they are on reserves or as municipalities,” she said, while extolling the liberal investments made in the constituency.

The Liberal government made Indigenous issues a priority while in government, pouring billions of dollars in new funds to end drinking water advisories, fix First Nations schools, put in place a new Indigenous-led child welfare system and reviving Indigenous languages ​​lost during centuries of colonialism, among other commitments.

On the issue of residential schools, the government has allocated more than $ 300 million to help communities with their research.

But Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has also been criticized for slow changes on some pressing issues – the government has pledged to implement all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, but work remains on good many of them – and for ongoing legal proceedings. related to children’s services.

While 109 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted under Trudeau’s watch, 51 remain in 32 communities.


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