APTN National News
Justin Trudeau rode a red tidal wave Monday that began in Atlantic Canada before sweeping across the country to give his party a majority government mandate.
Now, with the levers of power at his disposal, Trudeau faces high expectations he will move on the major promises he made during the campaign and some of the biggest were made to Indigenous peoples.
During his victory speech at his Montreal riding of Papineau, Trudeau pledged to build a “nation-to-nation” relationship with the Indigenous peoples in Canada.
The Liberals obliterated the NDP and pushed the Conservatives into opposition. Conservative leader Stephen Harper has indicated he will be stepping down from his leadership post, while NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s future remains unclear.
With at least six First Nation polling stations reporting that ballots ran out during voting Monday, it seems clear that an increase in the Indigenous vote helped propel Trudeau to his majority victory.
The red wave swept several Indigenous candidates into office, including Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Assembly of First Nations regional chief, who took the riding of Vancouver Granville. Wilson-Raybould will be joined by Liberal Indigenous candidates Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who beat long-time NDP MP Pat Martin to take Winnipeg Centre, Dan Vandal, who took the St. Boniface-Saint Vital riding, and Yvonne Jones, who knocked back former Innu leader Peter Penashue who was attempting a comeback under the Conservative banner. Liberal candidate Hunter Tootoo also snatched the Nunavut riding away from Conservative incumbent and former cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq and Liberal candidate Don Rusnak took Thunder Bay-Rainy River from the NDP incumbent.
Liberal candidate Michele Audette, a former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, lost to a Bloc Quebecois candidate in her Quebec riding of Terrebonne.
It was unclear who would take the Kenora riding late Monday, but as of press time former federal Liberal Indian affairs minister Robert Nault appeared poised to beat his nearest rival, NDP candidate Howard Hampton, a former provincial party leader.
On the NDP side, which saw the party’s numbers collapse across the country, some key MPs on the Indigenous file clung to victory.
Niki Ashton, the party’s Aboriginal affairs, beat her Liberal opponent Rebecca Chartrand, who had the backing of former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine, to retain her seat in Manitoba’s Churchill-Keewatinook Aski riding.
Romeo Saganash, a Cree NDP incumbent, also held off a threat from Liberal challenger Pierre Dufour to retain the Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou riding.
In addition to Aglukkaq’s loss, Conservative candidate Rob Clarke seemed destined to lose his seat in Saskatchewan riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River. Clarke was running in third behind Liberal candidate Lawrence Joseph and NDP candidate Georgina Jolibois who were separated by a small margin as of press time.
With such a massive Liberal victory, Trudeau will also now face expectations he deliver on his promises to Indigenous peoples.
Trudeau has committed to holding a public inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and to implement all 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He also promised to invest $2.6 billion into K-to-12 First Nation education. About $1.7 billion of that promise, however, depends on how much the Conservative government left in the fiscal framework from the $1.9 billion initially set aside for the First Nations Control of First Nation Education Act which died on the order paper after it was rejected by the majority of First Nation chief.
Trudeau said during an APTN town hall that his government would review all existing federal legislation to ensure it met with Aboriginal rights and the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It’s unclear what sort of process is needed to undertake such a task.
Canada’s next prime minister also pledged to deal with First Nation water problems, though that promise was never itemized in the Liberal platform’s costing document. Trudeau said during the campaign that he planned to clear all 93 First Nations currently on Health Canada’s water advisory list. The list doesn’t include British Columbia First Nations and the Liberal campaign clarified Trudeau’s promise saying he mentioned the 93 communities as a way to highlight the water problems facing First Nations.
Trudeau has also pledged to re-open and re-engage First Nations on the $5 billion Kelowna Accord, which was brought in by the Liberal government of Paul Martin. The accord, agreed to by Ottawa and First Nation, Metis, Inuit and off-reserve First Nations organizations, died when the Harper government took power in 2006.
First Nation organizations are already calling on the Trudeau government, which has not yet official taken power, to implement its promises.
“The mobilization of the First Nations vote reflects the desperate need for change from politics of fear and division and we are hopeful that the election of Justin Trudeau’s majority government is the beginning of a historic new relationship between First Nations and the government of Canada,” said Nishanwbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler in a statement. “Mr. Trudeau has made a significant commitments to First Nations…It is our expectation that the Liberal Party of Canada will prioritize these commitments.”