This federal election was certainly bittersweet for many. In Quebec many wished for another minority and even a coalition government in Ottawa. Harper though pulled through and got the majority government he desired and asked Canadians for. The next four years should be interesting ones as Canadians will have the opportunity to see what Harper can do with a majority.
Closer to home both sides of the James Bay voted in NDP candidates. In the Timmins James Bay riding in Ontario, Charlie Angus easily reclaimed his seat with 50.4% of the vote. He is well liked by all residents in his riding.
An unexpected contender in the Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou, Romeo Saganash, the first Cree to run, became the Member of Parliament for this riding. It was a respectable win with 44.8% of the voters having confidence in Saganash.
One can say this was an important election for not only the riding but for the Cree people. Traditionally Crees have not been huge fans of participating in federal or provincial elections. Given the historical treatment by these governments towards them it is not surprising that they have had no confidence in Canada’s or Quebec’s democratic systems.
Residential schools, the decimation of beaver population in the early 1900s, the RCMP killing all the dogs, the imposition of hydro-electric projects and a host of other trials and tribulations contributed to this mentality.
Slowly over the past few decades though the Crees have learnt and earned their place as full and respected participants in the territory. They are more proactive in being an integral part of the economic and business opportunities to be found in our resource-rich territory. As well as forging joint ventures, the Cree have made strategic alliances and, more importantly, friendships.
Today, the Cree work alongside many of the other residents of Quebec. No longer are they just known as the average worker but can be seen in management and administrative positions.
The political acumen of the Cree, combined with legal experts and consultants galore, gave most people a healthy respect for the Cree Nation as a whole. One only has to look at the various conferences and gatherings throughout the year designed to bring Crees and non-Natives together to meet and greet each other. Many a joint venture, partnership or work has come out these meetings.
All of this is why Romeo Saganash won. It wasn’t because he was a Cree and the Cree swing vote gave him the win. It was because he was a well-respected person known to all residents of the Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou district. They saw only the person, his values and positions with issues affecting the riding and said this is who will represent us.
It is a new day for northern Quebec.