Crees, Inuit and other First Nations traditionally don’t really vote as much as other residents of either the Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou or the Timmins-James Bay ridings. The times though are changing.
Romeo Saganash, a Cree from Waswanipi, has tossed his hat into the ring as the NDP candidate hoping to win the Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou riding in northern Quebec. He is the first Cree to run for federal office.
I strongly and without reservation urge all the chiefs and especially the Grand Council to support Saganash publicly. Your voices mean something to the Cree people and there is no excuse to not make history. Make no mistake this is a historical moment and when history stares you in the face it is time to step forward and do your part.
Personally, as editor-in-chief, I applaud Saganash and support him. I was proud to see this man step forward and say he was willing to take on the duties and responsibilities of representing all residents of the North.
Saganash is looking to work within the institutions that have affected the Cree culture, way of life, traditions and the land that made us what we are. It is time to add a strong Cree voice to the decisions made that concern all First Nations. Saganash, himself, said he has the experience, the knowledge and the will to work for all residents in the territory.
People are tired of having the same old choices, Saganash said. “People tell me they’ve been waiting for the right person when they stop on the street in Val-d’Or.” He said his support is strong and it shows people have seen his commitment to building relationships between all peoples in the riding.
Saganash said his decision to become a NDP candidate was easy. “Harper scares me, the Liberals lack leadership and the NDP has a great platform that I agree with. Jack Layton pushed to have the UN Declaration adopted by Canada. I’ve met him, like him and think he’s a good man.”
Saganash feels the Cree will come out and vote in this election. If so, they will make a difference as the riding has 80,894 eligible voters and the Cree Nation as a whole makes up over 9,000 of that total.
Though Saganash wants to run a positive campaign I have to question Elections Canada’s actions. No Cree community other than Chisasibi will have advance polls while non-Native communities will. Even Radisson, a community of approximately 300 people, will have advance polls. Almost every Cree community has a larger population.
This doesn’t seem to be a new relationship to me but the same old biases are crawling out of the woodwork. To ensure everyone in a non-Native community of 300 will have the opportunity to vote while denying the same possibility to all members of a different race is reprehensible.
It reminds me of the story of Rosa Parks. She was a Black woman who refused to give up her seat and go to the back of the bus in the US when racial segregation was a reality. Her actions went a long way to change that. I know, for some of our communities, families plan to be out in the bush for goose break on voting day May 2, but isn’t it time we refused to go to the back of the bus?
Find a way to vote and show that being Cree doesn’t mean being left out.