Ho hum. That about sums up the attitude of many of the First Peoples living within Quebec’s current borderstoward the provincial election.
“The elections? Which elections? It’s been a longtime since the elections were held [for Band Council],” was how Kahnawake Band Council member Billy Two Rivers put it when asked by La Presse to comment on the election.
As for the provincial election, which is scheduled for Sept. 12, the Mohawks of Kahnawake and Kanehsatake aren’t even letting scrutineers into make voters’ lists or set up voting booths. Of a population of 12,000 Mohawks in Quebec, not one voted in the 1992 referendum, none voted in the 1989 Quebec election, three voted in 1985, 10 in 1981 and seven in 1976. Mohawks also usually don’t vote in federal elections either.
“We are a nation. We have been sovereign here for centuries, and never have we been asked to become Canadians,” Eastern Door editor Kenneth Deer told La Presse. “Voting in these elections for us would be like denying our identity, and the Mohawks have always been very firm on that.”
Deputy Grand Chief Kenny Blacksmith told The Nation he “sympathizes” with the Mohawk position, but added that the Crees have a vital strategic role to play if Quebec threatens to pull out of Canada. “I understand why they [the Mohawks] act in the manner they have chosen, but at the same time Crees will have a very major impact. The position of the Crees could be very important in the whole situation,” he said.
“We’re all concerned about what the outcome will be. As for our people, we’ve never dictated what they should door if they should vote. We will provide information at the Annual General Assembly about the possibilities.
But I think the people will decide.”
Quebec’s National Assembly took away natives’ right to vote in 1915. It was only given back 25 years ago. Only 29 percent of natives cast a ballot in the last Quebec election in 1989.
Crees boast an even lower rate—only 26 per cent. The only nations voting less were the Algonquins (19 percent), the Mi’gmaq (17 per cent) and of course the Mohawks.