It’s always funny how what seems most out of reach from the federal government prior to an election period can suddenly be dangled before the eyes of voters like a carrot on a string. Though most of the major parties have not unveiled their full election platforms as of yet, the Nation was able to get some info on what a vote for each party would mean for Aboriginal peoples.
The Bloc Quebecois
According to Abitibi-Temiscamingue MP Marc Lemay, the Bloc “is the only party that represents Aboriginals.”
Lemay believes that Quebec’s Aboriginals would be best served voting for his party because “the Bloc has been totally in favour of recognizing nation-to-nation dialogues with the First Nations and we have maintained that,” and at that he feels that their platform is very complete.
The Bloc views the approach of Indian and Northern Affairs as “totally paternalistic,” and wants to provide better education programs so that First Nations have the same standard of education as the general population.
Lemay also said that he would seek to remove INAC’s 2% cap on capital funds for infrastructure since that figure has remained stagnant since 1996.
Housing is another major issue for the Bloc. In Quebec alone over 10,000 housing units are needed “urgently and not in five years” for First Nations.
According to Lemay, the Bloc supports the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and is urging the government to recognize the declaration.
The other major issues that the Bloc has on its platform are reintroducing the Kelowna Accord, working on cooperation between the government and First Nations communities and blocking matrimonial rights Bill C-47 from becoming law so that Aboriginals will be able to retain land-claim rights.
The Conservative Party
Conservative candidate Jean-Maurice Matte believes that a vote for his party is the best way to go because it is better to work with the Conservative government than against it.
As education is also a priority election campaign promise from the Conservatives, Matte mentioned the party’s recent work in helping to bring about the First Nations’ Pavilion at the Universite du Quebec en Abitibi-Temiscamingue which will be devoted to Aboriginal higher learning.
With the success of that project, Matte wants local Aboriginal communities to work together and “to find a way to get to know each other better.” He also cited recent hydro projects as an area where the Conservative government worked successfully with the Crees in particular. “The Cree Nation and all Quebecers got benefits from that project,” he said.
Matte acknowledged that the UN Declaration was a sensitive issue for the Conservatives, but said he would do his best to bring the issue to the table.
“With discussion and by sitting at the same table, we will find a way that the UN Declaration or some other declaration would be signed,” said Matte.
In regards to housing Matte said the Conservatives would identify the need and work to make sure that money is available for adequate housing for First Nations.
The Liberal Party
Though the Liberals are not yet finished unveiling their campaign platform and have assured the Nation that there is much more to come from the part for Aboriginal voters, Liberal Party spokesperson Joseph Mayer was able to provide some campaign tidbits.
With a Liberal government in power, Mayer said that consultation and consensus will be the cornerstone of a renewed and strengthened relationship with First Nations, Metis and the Inuit.
The goal of a Liberal government for Aboriginal communities would be to improve Aboriginal socioeconomic outcomes such as education and health and resurrect the Kelowna Accord.
If the Liberals can manage to gain enough seats in Parliament, they would reverse the Conservatives’ position and ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The safety of Aboriginal women would also be a top priority as would jurisdictional issues that impact First Nations children in care.
The New Democratic Party
The NDP’s Charlie Angus had his own package of goodies to offer Aboriginal voters including a $5 billion package that would address the shortfalls in health services, housing and infrastructure and other associated programs.
The NDP would remove the INAC’s 2% spending cap that has left so many communities with decaying infrastructures because the cap was imposed in 1996.
To address the overrepresentation of Aboriginals in the justice system, the NDP would introduce a “crime policy that will work towards restorative justice and rehabilitation,” said Angus.
Angus said the NDP would immediately ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and make major commitments to treaty rights.
Though Jordan’s Principle was just made law in Manitoba, Angus said that under the NDP’s watch it would be “enshrined into law so that the federal government has to act to ensure the rights of children.” This would be to help children in care, medical crisis or education.
The NDP also have an aggressive plan for First Nations’ education to address “the systemic neglect that has gone on,” so that Aboriginals have the same access to education as the rest of the population.
Among their other campaign promises are plans to help out urban Aboriginals, support language development, help develop community economies, and ensure that residential-school survivors left out by the current agreement are compensated.