Indigenous voters hope to see spike in turnout at federal election

WINNIPEG — This summer, members of the Indigenous community rallied together to honour children found in unmarked graves at residential schools while pushing for change.

Some are wondering if this and calls for reconciliation will translate to big numbers at polling stations on election day.

In 2015, turnout was up among Indigenous voters federally. In Manitoba, Elections Canada said turnout for on-reserve voters was 57.5 per cent in 2015. In 2019 it dropped off to 40.6 per cent. 

Dani Rae’s three-year-old son is Indigenous. She hopes that number spikes again.

“There’s a lot of change that needs to happen. There’s a lot of advocacy for Indigenous rights right now, and people are upset,” Rae said.

Chris Adams, a political studies adjunct professor at the University of Manitoba said he doesn’t expect voter turnout to be as high as 2015 when Justin Trudeau made promises that garnered support from Indigenous leaders.

“We’ve had a number of years of the Trudeau Liberals in power, so there’s less excitement about turning things over,” Adams said. “Secondly I think things are snapping back to the historical pattern.”

Adams believes NDP incumbents in Manitoba could benefit from those historical patterns, as they represent ridings with high Indigenous populations.

On the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature, a camp still stands to honour the children being discovered.

Shawna Peloquin is an organizer with the camp.

“I always vote because I like to complain, and for me that gives me the authority to complain about who I vote for,” said Peloquin.

She too doesn’t expect Indigenous people will rush to the polls like they did in 2015.

“I think that there’s lots of disappointment,“ said Peloquin “but also that Indigenous people have a lot to worry about more than who, whatever ego trip the candidates are going for.”

Rae understands why that might be the case. She says there is mistrust within the Indigenous community.

“You could see it go either way,” Rae said. “They could end up saying we don’t want to participate in government affairs right now.”

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