APTN National News
OTTAWA—Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde announced Wednesday he is planning to vote in the federal election on Oct. 19.
Bellegarde said he decided to cast a ballot for the first time in a federal election after hearing from First Nation Elders, leaders and youth who called on him to vote.
“The message to me is consistent and clear. It is vital that First Nations voices be heard in every way possible, including through the ballot box,” said Bellegarde, in a statement.
Bellegarde said he was told, “You need to be an example.”
Bellegarde admitted recently he doesn’t vote in federal elections on the advice of Elders.
“As Indigenous peoples, our relationship is with the Crown, rather than one political party,” said Bellegarde. “And I must work with the entire Crown. That is why I have not voted in federal elections.”
Bellegarde and the AFN have launched a campaign to get out the First Nations vote, arguing Indigenous people could influence the outcome in over three dozen ridings. Bellegarde also released a list of priorities he’d like to see the next government take on to reduce the disparity between the life of First Nation people in cities and reserves and the rest of Canada.
First Nation issues, however, are nowhere on the national election radar, based on the themes put to the federal party leaders in the first leadership debate hosted by Maclean’s and Canada’s public broadcaster’s interviews with the leaders rolling out this week. Not one question on First Nation issues surfaced despite this year’s release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and its 94 recommendations.