SaganashRomeo_NDPWhy are you the most qualified person to represent this region? 

I think that my track record for the region speaks for itself. I have worked hard to support the local economy: the forestry and mining industries, the Nunavik Tourism Association, and the Cree outfitters in Eeyou Istchee. It is important that citizens in this riding have access to sustainable employment.

I also believe that we need to do more for our communities. This is why I have worked hard to advocate for more support for our community organizations and was successful in getting more funding for La Piaule through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). The Tasirvik Family House in Kuujjuarapik is a very important community project that I have supported, and I hope that it will be extended to include Whapmagoostui.

I also put in place the Comité des élus (municipal, provincial and federal levels) to enable elected representatives to work together for the well-being of citizens, regardless of political stripe. I also worked to reduce homelessness in Val-d’Or by supporting “Chez Willie” and made sure that the Canmet mining school remains here in the riding.

Another file that is close to my heart and that I have actively brought forth to the House of Commons is the crisis of the 1200 Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada. Finally, I have worked on more than 500 personal records of citizens on employment insurance, immigration, tax benefits, benefits for seniors and other constituents’ needs. I will continue to work hard for the riding.

What could your party do for the region? And why is it the best choice?

After 10 years of Harper, people in this riding are ready for change; that is what I hear on the doorstep. The only party that can bring real change and get rid of Harper is the NDP. My leader has a strong record on a lot of the issues that resonate in this riding, like supporting the local economy while making sure that we do it in a sustainable way and that we protect the environment for generations to come.

The NDP has consistently fought for Indigenous rights and tabled legislation that is in line with traditional values of caring for the environment, the water, the animals, the trees. We have a concrete Sustainable North plan for the region that is based on our understanding that solutions need to come from the communities: they know best what they need.

For everyone, we will invest in families; invest in strong community infrastructure – creating good, skilled jobs opportunities here in our community and making sure that everybody can retire in dignity. We will repeal C-51 to protect constitutional rights; and we will undo the damage done to our environmental protection laws and research about Climate Change and protecting the North.

What specifically could you do for the Cree? 

I have been a strong advocate for the Cree since I founded the Cree National Youth Council 30 years ago and served in many functions for the Cree – I believe that the NDP can continue this work at the federal level. My leader has clearly committed to a new Nation-to-Nation era with First Nations Inuit and Métis communities and I will ensure that we deliver on this commitment.

My colleagues know that this is an equal relationship of partners based on treaty mutual respect – we are done with 148 years of Liberal and Conservative patronizing, colonization and assimilation. I am committed to working to recreate our shared future.

We have already promised an inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls within the first 100 days of forming government, and this is something that I want to personally see through.

I will also return to the House to re-table my bill that will ensure that the laws of Canada respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples entirely supported by my colleagues and leader in the NDP. I also plan to work towards seeing our languages recognized. I want to be able to stand up in the House again to speak my language with pride and I will see the funding and support for Indigenous languages reinstated and increased.

Is there anything else?

I would like to add that when I was at the UN and we were drafting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it was very important to us that we included Article 5 which says that we have the right to participate fully in elections of the nation-state while still retaining our legal rights and status as Indigenous Peoples.

This is extremely important to keep in mind during this election: the AFN has identified 51 ridings, including Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou, where participation by Indigenous people will decide who is elected. The way I see it: our ancestors saw a partnership, they signed a treaty. It’s our responsibility to honour them by making our treaty partners accountable and change the system.