There may be a new dynamic in this election

What would happen if the First Nations voters in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon decided to exercise their political clout?

by Mark Rushton

Abbotsford News

In most Lower Mainland federal electoral districts, the First Nations vote is relatively insignificant. Not so in the new riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon.

It wouldn’t surprise me if aboriginals represent the largest ethnic bloc in the riding; their numbers large along the north bank of the Fraser from Mission to Agassiz and perhaps the majority in the Fraser and Thompson canyon areas.

First Nations are also predominant in communities such as Lytton, Ashcroft and Lillooet so if a candidate in this riding wants to win, he (only “he” candidates are running) best be courting the native vote, because Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde is urging all indigenous people to get out and cast a ballot.

There are 51 electoral districts across the country where First Nations can make the difference, and Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon is one of them.

“(These) ridings can make a difference between a majority and a minority government. People are starting to see that,” Bellegarde told a general assembly of the AFN in Montreal recently.

“Show that our people count. Show that our people matter. Show that we can make a difference. Show that our issues will not be put to the side.”

If that battle cry is taken up, what might have been seen as a relatively safe Conservative seat elected by Abbotsford and Mission residents will be up for grabs.

Bellegarde also points out that native youth are the fastest growing segment of Canada’s population, and he obviously wants them, along with the rest of First Nations to be heard loud and clear this election.

I’m also certain that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, who has long been a powerful voice in B.C. politics and First Nations relationships, will be mobilizing the vote, particularly in those ridings in our province where natives can make a difference.

Along with the electoral district in which I live, B.C. ridings targeted by the Assembly of First Nations include five on Vancouver Island, two in central B.C., one in South Okanagan/Kootenay and two in Surrey.

Only one has an incumbent Conservative, seven have no incumbent running.

And lest anyone dismiss the potential electoral strength of First Nations, remember they have been recently empowered by the so-called Roger William decision that granted historic land title to the Nemiah band of the Chilcotin, along with other court decisions that now require governments and anyone else to “consult and accommodate” them.

Such massive projects as the Site C power dam on the Peace and Petronas’ LNG plant near Prince Rupert also await First Nations approval or rejection before they can attempt to proceed.

Aboriginals, long overlooked in Canadian politics, now certainly have the potential to become an electoral force.

It’s anyone’s guess at this time if Bellegarde’s call to ballot box arms will resonate with First Nations to cast ballots in greater numbers than ever before, but if I were running in Mission-Matsqui-Etc. I’d certainly be out there combing the reserves (with permission, of course) for votes.

From what I can gather, the current government is not held in the highest regard by First Nations leadership, while both Mulcair and Trudeau have committed to improving relationships should either form government.

One way or another, the Assembly of First Nations wants to make a breakthrough in a culture that has traditionally shied away from federal and provincial politics.

I think they may just do that this time around, and conceivably have a significant role in who will represent me, and everyone else, in Ottawa come October 19.

Just Posted

Cache Creek council votes to rejoin local transit system

Details need to be worked out, but hopes are that change can be expedited

Ashcroft residents get information at Community Forum

Water treatment plant, recycling, an Eco-Depot, the budget, and more among items addressed

Elizabeth May’s wedding will be a ‘low-carbon affair’ in Victoria on Earth Day

Green party leader’s wedding party to depart in a cavalcade of electric cars

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Homeless activists outside Notre Dame demand ‘a roof too’

Wealthy people have donated millions to effort to rebuild cathedral after devastating fire

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Northern B.C. yoga studio raises $2,500 for woman leaving abusive relationship

The 100 Mile House studio held a fundraiser yoga class and accepted donations from members to help the woman

Ex-mayor of northern village claims its drivers are overpaying ICBC $1,800 a year

Darcy Repen says data shows Telkwa households are being ripped off for car insurance

Deadly synthetic drug found in Kamloops that puts users in ‘zombielike’ state

Interior Health warning says substance causes ‘speedy, trippy-like symptoms’ and hallucinations

Trudeau to be portrayed on ‘Simpsons’ episode

Toronto journalist who’s posted videos of himself doing impressions of the PM voiced him for the show

Elizabeth May’s wedding dress a ‘walk through a garden’ on Earth Day

Green Party leader set to get married in Victoria

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

Most Read