Ontario's Invisible People - Where are Aboriginal Issues in the Ontario Election?
The contenders for the top spot of Premier are: (1) Progressive Conservative Party's Tim Hudak; (2) New Democrat Party's Andrea Horwath; (3) Green Party's Mike Schreiner; and (4) Liberal Party's Dalton McGuinty. McGuinty is the current incumbent (i.e., he is currently in the position of Premier and hoping to be re-elected).
You are entitled to vote in this upcoming election if: (1) you are at least 18 years old, (2) a Canadian citizen, (3) you reside in an electoral district and (4) have not already voted. This means that for those Aboriginal people in Ontario who want to, you can vote in this election.
However, if you do vote, I STRONGLY suggest that you read the election platforms (i.e., promises made by politicians about what they will do if elected) of each party beforehand. It is not because I believe that most contenders will fulfill all their election promises, but if they are not making ANY promises in relation to key issues that concern you, then this should act as a major red flag.
As a Mi'kmaw woman who now lives in Ontario, my primary concern is for the First Nations living in Ontario and how their views, concerns, needs, rights and interests will be addressed by each party. I don't vote in elections, so I won't be voting, but I participate in other ways, like helping to inform others about who and what they are voting for - if they do.
It is for this reason that I have gone through all of the election platforms, including the Liberal Plan which was just released today. The first thing that struck me was that not a SINGLE plan mentioned Aboriginal peoples at all. There was no mention of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, or their rights, interests or needs. The solitary reference to Aboriginal peoples was in the Conservative's tough on crime section of their platform where they made a reference to "illegal" activity on reserves.
Tim Hudak and the Conservative Party of Ontario's election platform is called the "Changebook" and can be found here:
Andrea Horwath and the NDP's election platform is called "The Plan for Affordable Change" and can be found at this link:
Mike Schreiner and the Green Party's election platform is called: "It's Time: A five point plan for Ontario's future" and can be viewed here:
Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party's plan was just released today and is called: "Forward Together" and can be accessed at this link:
In all of the platforms, there are lots of nice pictures of happy white people riding bikes, taking strolls in the forest, holding hands, or working hard mining, farming, or assembling vehicles. All of the contenders for Premier themselves are all white people. There is not a single picture of a First Nation community, celebration or leader in all of these platforms. It is like we do not exist in Ontario.
The province of Ontario has the LARGEST population of Aboriginal peoples of all the other provinces and territories. There are almost 300,000 Aboriginal people living in Ontario, which means that 21% of all Aboriginal people live in Ontario. Even more astounding is that 80% of the Aboriginal population living in Ontario lives OFF-RESERVE. There are also 133 First Nations within Ontario, making it the province with the second highest number of First Nations after British Columbia.
So why have we become invisible to Ontarians? Is Pikangikum's child suicide crisis not visible enough?
Or what about Attawapiskat's deplorable school conditions?
Or how about the long, unresolved land claims in Six Nations?
I am sure that most people remember the senseless murder of Dudley George at Ipperwash:
What about the First Nations that live in the Ring of Fire and their Aboriginal and treaty rights?
I could literally go on and on about the numerous Aboriginal issues and concerns in Ontario, but that is not the purpose of this blog. My point is to highlight that our issues have been completely ignored in this election. The only party that took any notice of First Nations was the Conservative Party, but not in a good way. True to right-wing form, they only mention First Nations is in the crime section of their platform. (see page 33)
There, the First Nation traditional tobacco growing, manufacturing, and trading activities are characterized as "illegal", "criminal", and "dangerous" because it is run by "organized crime that uses it to fund their drug and weapons trades". The Conservatives racist attack on First Nations is bolstered by their view that "honest businesses who are robbed of revenue, and every Ontario family, as we lose at least $500 million each year in tax revenue."
We, as First Nations people are invisible when we are dying of starvation, our children kill themselves at alarming rates or our schools are condemned. However, if there is even the most remote chance that we might be able to benefit from using OUR land or OUR resources, then they crack down with all their police, military, and legislative might to ensure that we stay where we belong: living in extreme poverty on reserves out of the hearts and minds of "honest", "hard-working" Canadians.
Even the Liberal platform, which labels Dalton McGuinty as the "Education Premier" brags for pages about the education levels and achievements of Ontario residents. Sure, Ontario can boast about 85% graduation rates, 75% of students exceeding provincial testing standards, and how they have invested $4 billion in new classrooms, libraries, buildings and labs.
I guess it would not look very good for the Liberals to talk about Aboriginal education statistics. They will fall back on the jurisdictional argument that Aboriginal people are federal jurisdiction. Well, in fact, as the province knows very well, the only Aboriginal group that is definitively federal jurisdiction is First Nations living on reserve. Given that 80% of Aboriginal live OFF-RESERVE, this means that Ontario has at least some role to play in ensuring that EVERYONE who lives in Ontario has access to all these wonderful educational benefits.
None of these candidates deserve our vote, but they do deserve to called on their lack of honesty and failure to stand up for EVERYONE who lives in Ontario. Speak up and call them on it.
I know I will!