- NC Raine | August 24, 2021
Canadians will head to the polls on September 20th, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap summer general election. Eagle Feather News spoke with four Indigenous candidates on their bids to represent their regions in Parliament.
Robert Doucette – NDP, Saskatoon-West
A former President of the Métis Nation Saskatchewan (2007 - 2016), executive director of the Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre (on leave) is turning his attention to the riding of Saskatoon-West in order to provide a voice to the marginalized and suffering members of the community.
“I care about people. I've always cared about people. The people of Saskatoon-West have a lot of issues and they need an MP that will go to Ottawa and open doors for them, who will actually act on their concerns,” he said.
Doucette's priorities concern the opioid epidemic in Saskatoon's west side, mental health, homelessness, seniors with inadequate supports, and those suffering mentally, financially, or physically as a result of COVID-19. A lot of families are having to choose between rent, food, and medication, he said.
“I'm also concerned with some of the broken promises made by the Liberals to Indigenous people. For example, the Métis Sixties Scoop, they promised to sign a deal with the Métis people, with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, with the Île-à-la-Crosse and Green Lake day schools, and they haven't done that.”
Doucette also said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and the party reflect his same values of compassion and caring for other people.
“I think we can send MPs to Ottawa that actually listen to people and care about them, and act on what they want done. I do believe Saskatoon-West is going to change colour. Its going back to orange, but more importantly, its going back to the people.”
Harmonie King – NDP, Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
As a clinical support worker who has provided aid to children, families, schools, and those in the most marginalized and vulnerable populations, King said she wants to help create a system where no one gets left behind.
“I'm running because I genuinely care about people,” she said.
“I've helped provide support to our most marginalized, vulnerable, and oppressed populations, and this type of work experience gives me an insight, a deep understanding, that our most vulnerable are in survival mode and sometimes struggle to advocate for themselves (...) I want to be part of that change helps our current system where no one gets left behind, and I truly believe the NDP holds that value.”
King said she would like to see increased mental health supports and addiction treatments both on and off reserve. She also said communication service, like wifi and broadband internet, needs to be improved for citizens in the north, as dead-zones make it difficult for travel.
She would also like to see healthcare supports, including universal dental, hearing, and eye care. Many people in the north are faced with difficult decisions of which necessities their money on, she said.
“There are 1.6 million people in Canada who are spending 30% of their income on housing. When you have people doing that, when they're spending more than they can afford on housing, they start having to choose whether they're going to buy healthy food for their families, or fix something that (needs repair).”
Buckley Belanger – Liberal, Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
Saskatchewan's longest serving MLA, Buckley Belanger (Athabasca) made a surprise decision this August when he announced he would be stepping down from his position and moving from the NDP to Liberal Party, in order to run in the federal riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River.
He hopes the move will help better represent the region on a federal level.
“This federal riding has always had 37, 38, 40 percent maximum in terms of percentage of support. It's a riding that is two-thirds Indigenous people. We've always been sending a Conservative to Ottawa, that doesn't really represent our area at all. I'm tired of us not having a voice in Ottawa,” said Belanger.
One of the big priorities the northern region is highway infrastructure, said Belanger, and would like to see a multi-million dollar commitment to the improving the poor highways. But the list of frustrations up north is long.
“COVID-19 was one of the problems. Then we talk about the forest fires really displacing people as well as burning valuable land and cabins down. Then you throw in some of the challenges around addictive drugs that some of our people are caught up in. And some of the revelations around the Roman Catholic church (...) You put these problems one on top of another, and you see how frustrated the north is. We don't have a voice in Ottawa. And we know the current member in opposition really isn't effective at all.”
Belanger said he'd like to take a page out of longtime Liberal MP Ralph Goodale's playbook, who he said has done wonderful things both for his riding and the province. He also said his former party, the NDP, were gracious and understanding when he decided to leave.
“The point is, we can't keep splitting the votes between the NDP and Liberals. Let's send someone to the government who has experience, who is willing to make the sacrifices to get there, but more so, someone who will do the hard work to get results.”
Dawn Dumont Walker – Liberal, Saskatoon-University
Dawn Dumont Walker, on top of serving as the Executive Operating Officer for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations for the last nine years, is also an accomplished author, journalist, and comedian.
As an MP for the Liberal Party in Saskatoon-University, she said she would take a 'family first' approach.
“I'm a single mom, and I really appreciate the investment (the federal government) made into daycare and supporting families, and making sure women can continue working,” said Dumont Walker.
“I think it's really important that all of the COVID benefits that we put in place are going to be kept in place. When you invest in families, you invest in the economy.”
Dawn Walker said moving to a position as a Liberal MP would give her an opportunity to impact meaningful change, as more Indigenous need to be represented in government. One of the issues she's most passionate about is climate change.
“It's very important to me. We've gone through a summer of plus 34 degrees – the hottest summer on record. I think it needs to be addressed in a serious way, and I think the Liberals have the ability to do that,” she said.
Dumont Walker said the carbon tax is a good step, but Canada needs to start investing in and transitioning to more green jobs.
She also believes the Liberals are in a good position based on how leadership navigated the constant challenges during the pandemic.
“Most people are really happy with how Trudeau handled the pandemic, with daily news briefings, keeping us informed every day. And people like the way Dr. Theresa Tam was forthright and direct. She made things simple. And they kept children in the loop, who were scared during the pandemic. That's what I've been hearing from people I've been talking to.”