The way NDP candidate Marc Laferriere is looking at it, a Nation to Nation relationship with First Nations in Canada is one election away, but it is going to take new voters to see that happen.
This was the message brought to Six Nations and New Credit, Tuesday, as he and NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic, MP Jean Crowder, came through the area seeking voters wishing to make a change in Ottawa, and within the Brant riding.
Crowder and Laferriere took some time out to visit with the Two Row Times for an exclusive interview on matters relative to First Nations in general and to Six Nations and New Credit in particular. They also dropped in on Elected Chief Ava Hill and New Credit Chief Bryan LaForme to listen to their concerns and hopes for the future.
“We are very excited about our chances in this coming election,” said Crowder. “I was first elected in 2004 when we had 19 seats. That grew to 100, and who knows what is going to happen in October. That will be up to the voters to determine.”
Even though it is early on the campaign trail, Laferriere and NDP’s across the country have been very active in their ridings since the last federal election and have earned a good reputation for looking out for everyone, and not just the rich and powerful.
“I think that what is fundamental is recognizing that there are treaties, there are inherent rights, and a long history where there was recognition of a Nation to Nation relationship in the past,” said Crowder. “In the colonial days, the governments recognized that they could not survive without First Nations as allies. So, these treaties were signed as equal partners.”
“Tom Mulclair has been very clear that we need to go back and reestablish these treaties which recognizes inherent rights and the need to deal with First Nations on a Nation to Nation basis,” said Crowder.
Notably, the NDP stood up against C-51 and C-10, in part, because of the impact on First Nations Rights.
“There are certainly concerns over resource development and whether these bills were a way to start targeting First Nations objections to the lack of consultation, the lack of consent with regards to resource development on First Nations lands,” said Crowder.
“C-51 is just the latest in a long line of bills that we opposed,” she adds. “Other “acts” like the education act, the transparency act, the elections act, and matrimonial real property act, and the list just goes on, we see them as part of the Conservative agenda to undermine First Nations rights.”
While the other parties consider a visit to Six Nations or New Credit a waste of time, given the low voter turn out, the NDP’s, and especially Laferrierre know that this election, more that any other, could be a game changer for First Nations people.
“The AFN has targeted the Brantford riding as one of the 51 ridings in the country that can decide the election,” says Laferriere.
UNIFOR, Canada’s biggest labour union, has also put its support in the NDP camp.
“I completely understand the conscientious objection to vote,” he says. “But I am hearing more and more young Six Nations and New Credit people say they are voting this time and will be supporting my campaign. I hear older people saying, ‘I’d rather not vote but I can’t see a way of getting a government that will work with us unless I do utilize my franchise and vote.’”
Both Crowder and Laferriere say, it’s about listening to people.
“I come from a social services background and you have to listen where people are at and spend the time bringing people together,” says Laferriere. “This riding needs that. With an urban centre, a County and two First Nations, there are a lot of opportunities to work together, but you need a federal leadership willing to do so.”
Both party faithful’s think the time is right for an NDP government.
“We are at a crossroads in history, where, if we get this right with regards to relationships with indigenous peoples across this country, we have an opportunity as a collective people to really be much better off that we are,” says Crowder. “I know it sounds kind of Pollyannaish but I think it’s true. We are at a critical juncture were if we can change the relationship we can move forward in a way that contributes to the greater good for all.
“There is a wonderful group of young First Nations people coming up that have so much to contribute and be a part of how our society moves forward. If we get it wrong, we are sending them into another generation of poverty and despair.”