By the time enumeration period arrived a few days ago, the Quebec Director-General of Elections had recruited more than 20 Eeyouch enumerators to walk into our homes in order to register the population for the Sept. 12 provincial elections.
An honourable mission, one might say, but yes, there is also a disturbing side to this rather determined courtship—this time more than any other.
So, as I observed the phenomenon, I couldn’t help but wonder how we sometimes so cruelly lack consistency in politics. If we are indeed a distinct nation, a people (Eeyou), then why are we participating with such hopeless submissiveness in another nation’s electoral process?
Yet, as statistics have shown, a constant one-quarter of the Cree voting population do effectively exercize a privilege they only obtained some 25 years ago (1969), which is to say the least a mystifying thing for me. How does one grasp the nature of this defying act (I’m exaggerating)? And what significance should we lend to this phenomenon?
Non-participation of Indigenous Peoples in federal or provincial elections has become, over the years, an understood and widely accepted principle. There is a political motive behind the position; that of being distinct nations, searching for a recognition of our own government. I can of course, as a fairly liberal person, truly respect those 26 per cent among the Cree Nation who chose to participate in the 1989 provincial elections, as well as the 24 per cent who voted in the referendum on the Charlottetown Accord. But allow me to remain bewildered.
Whether it’s 26, 24 or 99 percent, governments we all know too well by now have an unscrupulous tendency to remain oh! how inattentive and unheeding toward Indigenous Peoples anyway. That is why I think there’s something pathetically pathetic about all this.
Of course, a political oversight of this kind could only benefit those who still hold colonialist, racist, 19th-century views about Indigenous Peoples and what we are. On the one hand, Lucien Bouchard is absolutely convinced that we aren’t “peoples,” and on the other, a new self-appointed patriot by the name of Richard Le Hir isn’t so sure we are “civilizations.”
Racism, whether direct and ugly such as Le Hir’s or subtle such as Bouchard’s, is still racism to me. And incidentally enough, these same individuals and their fellow separatists are likely to be, after Hydro-Quebec, our next most ferocious opponents.
As we enter, Cree and Quebecois, perhaps the most crucial moments of our respective histories, questions of participation and non-participation become fundamental for our own people, as the name of the game here is: the majority rules. We are in fact in a context where every move and action will be politically monitored and interpreted by our opponents. This alone should compel any Cree to think twice before voting on September 12. And one should at least attempt to understand that fora Nation like ours, participating in the up-com-ing provincial elections is exactly what it is: somewhat too “provincial” of an attitude.
And then again, the phenomenon is perhaps more deeply rooted than we think, and maybe the 25 percent rate of participation will persist this time around, despite all. In that case, should we take comfort in the fact that the colonizer and the colonized are old acquaintances after all?