APTN National News
Hopes are high among many of Alberta’s Indigenous communities after Tuesdays historic election that saw a 44-year run of Conservative rule come to an end.
The NDP, led by Rachel Notley, committed to a renewed partnership with Alberta’s Aboriginal peoples that included a promise to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and making it law in the province.
Notley also outlined commitments to tackle issues like supporting a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women; working to solve land claims and addressing consultation issues.
A high number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Albertans turned out to vote and according to a sample from Elections Alberta, they voted NDP.
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam attended the packed NDP celebration in Edmonton Tuesday night and congratulated Notley in person on her win.
His band, north of Fort McMurray and the tar sands, has long-standing environmental concerns over oil exploration and development.
He said he’s looking forward to working with Notley to revisit tar sands regulation.
“We have to build that new bridge with the new premier of Alberta,” said Adam. “Ms. Rachel Notley is more than willing to sit down with Aboriginal people and leaders across this province of Alberta, so be it, I’m game to do it.”
He said some Alberta chiefs were unsure of the prospect of a new government and were still hanging onto the promises made by the former government led by Jim Prentice who resigned as leader of the Conservatives and gave up his seat in the legislature.
“Some of the older chiefs wanted to support Prentice because of the commitments he made prior to the election, but those commitments aren’t there anymore,” said Adams. “They had 44 years to live by it. Why so long?”
Assembly of First Nations regional chief Cameron Alexis told APTN National News that the NDP were the only party to reach out to First Nations in the province.
“I sincerely thank premier-elect Notley for recognizing the Indigenous peoples of Alberta and the will to work with us,” Alexis said in a statement to APTN. “She further reached out to ask for the Aboriginal votes! This was not evidenced by the other parties! We look forward to a positive relationship with the NDP and begin the path to move forward on all issues relative to First Nations and all Albertans.”
Social media is believed to have played a strong role on influencing Indigenous voters.
Calgary based social media blogger and activist Lowa Beebe said she saw lots of election information distributed and shared via social media.
“This is now a tool in our history. Our communities always worked together and were stronger together, well on social media we are now together,” said Beebe. “It’s us talking and having discussions on this new medium that’s here to stay.”
Promises from NDP Platform
Nicole Robertson, of Calgary said she voted NDP after once having a one-on-one conversation with Prentice about murdered and missing Indigenous women.
She said he didn’t give her any straight answers.
However, it was the promise from the NDP on the matter that swayed her support in their direction.
“To me that’s really important. We are at an all-time breaking point, a national crisis in this country,” said Robertson. “In Alberta there’s a high number (of missing and murdered Indigenous women). I’m hoping this new government will assist in the prevention of missing and murdered Indigenous women and our men.”
“To Alberta’s Indigenous Peoples, the trust that we have been given tonight is a call to be better neighbours and better partners.” Rachel Notley
Katherine Swampy, one of five Aboriginal candidates in the campaign, ran in the riding of Drayton Valley-Devon which includes her home community of Maskwacis.
She spent long days door-knocking and said it was the first time her community members had anyone from a provincial election include them in their outreach.
Swampy came in third.
“My achievements in this election were not just my own, it lifted my entire community,” said Swampy who added that many people were inspired by her. “I was told that my efforts as an Aboriginal woman had an effect throughout the province as this election had more Aboriginal voters than ever before.”
As for the success of her peers and the promises that they made, Swampy is confident they will follow through.
“It was the only party that had any type of platform that included Indigenous people. I am super proud. I’m unbelievably proud that we are the new government.”
During her victory speech Notley acknowledged Alberta’s Indigenous people.
“To Alberta’s Indigenous peoples, the trust that we have been given tonight is a call to be better neighbours and better partners. And I am looking forward to consulting with you and learning from you,” said Notley in her victory speech.
It was a line that took Chief Allan Adam by surprise.
He said he’s never heard an Alberta leader mention Alberta’s Aboriginal peoples in a victory speech.
“Finally, we are going to go somewhere if she means what she says,” said Adam.