You may be aware that there was a recent election in Mistissini for chief, deputy chief and band council. Like many other would-be Mistissini electors, however, I unfortunately had no chance of voting in the all-important run-off election held July 27. I missed that opportunity to participate – as did all the other eligible voters stuck outside the community due to work, study, health or other personal reasons.
Usually, I would have voted in the travelling polls provided wherever there are numbers of Cree voters eligible to vote. This year, however, this changed, without valid explanation, between the initial round of voting on July 14 and the run-off election two weeks later.
Some voters have been told that they are no longer eligible because they don’t reside in the community. This doesn’t hold water: Mistissini band members don’t lose their right to vote simply because they happen to be outside the community.
It just doesn’t include only me. Any workers doing a job for Hydro-Quebec didn’t have an opportunity to vote. If a woman is giving birth and most of those are outside of Mistissini then her and her support crew such as husband, mother, sister, friends and other important people in your life. The list can be long at times as any Cree knows.
No one is a drain on the community because they work away from their home. Indeed, they can contribute even more when they return through the use of knowledge and experience.
A women giving birth should be honoured for her providing a beautiful gift that will be our future. Those that support her should also be acknowledged.
A Cree who undertakes the task of learning new things gives us less dependency on those not of the people. Bringing that possibility back to the community requires sacrificing time with family and friends you have grown up with. You often enter a world with none of the familiar assistance you experienced back home.
Now, however, the Mistissini band council is essentially telling people like us that we are second-class citizens; that we don’t deserve the right to vote. We have been disenfranchised.
Why? Has our contribution to community been less than the local dealer or bootlegger?
Has the desire to be allowed to vote for the person we want to represent us too much for the community?
The Grand Council of the Crees goes out of its way to ensure all Crees are given the opportunity to vote in both referendums and elections. I remember one time they even used helicopters to ensure trapper families could vote.
This was a definite change from when Canada gave Aboriginals the right to vote in 1960 except for in Quebec. We only gained this hard won right in 1969. Women, Jews, black people and other persecuted minorities received the vote before us. It is not a small right but one that is the foundation of a nation.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s Corbière decision guaranteed most First Nations people the right to vote whether they were on reserve or not. Much of the legal work has been done. Does anyone know a lawyer or two who would be interested? Phone or email the Nation. If you are upset at not having the opportunity or choice to vote then let’s show we don’t mind upsetting the applecart. If you do not respect your rights then why should the government or the police?