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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Election season is upon us

BY Will Nicholls Aug 30, 2021

It’s always interesting to see what the different candidates have to offer when an election is called. How many promises will be made? How many will be kept, compromised in the name of pragmatism or how many will simply disappear, never to be seen again even if the candidate making them is elected?

Will a particular candidate appeal to you, will your vote simply be a choice of the lesser evils, or are you tied to a particular party no matter what? Hopefully, the past will mean something to Cree, Inuit and Anishinaabe voters in the Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou riding. 

Bloc Québécois MP Sylvie Bérubé hasn’t been seen much less heard from during her term, though she is still hoping to continue representing Quebec’s largest riding in terms of land area. Bérubé is known for keeping a low profile, and her lack of English proficiency may account for that when dealing with the mainly English-speaking Indigenous population. She feels that Justin Trudeau’s election call is irresponsible during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are pinning their hopes on Lise Kistabish, who has worked with the Assembly of First Nations and has experience in both federal and provincial politics. Kistabish is currently the director of employment and social development for the Abitibiwinni First Nation of Pikogan, and is hoping to follow Romeo Saganash’s past success and ride the large Indigenous vote to victory. 

In the 2008 federal election, Kistabish vied unsuccessfully to represent the Conservative Party then led by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Abitibi–Témiscamingue riding. It’s a choice she now regrets. “The Conservative Party treated Aboriginal issues with indifference,” she says now. “He did not represent my values. The Liberals are closer in terms of inclusion, diversity, listening and action.”

The Conservative flag will be waved in this election by Steve Corriveau of Val-d’Or. Corriveau has hit the ground running, multiplying his visits to different parts of the territory well before the election call to get a jump on the other candidates. 

Corriveau says his teenage political hero was Guy St-Julien, the riding’s Conservative MP under Brian Mulroney, the prime minister from 1984-1993. His website states, “I am a man for whom teamwork is essential and my unifying qualities will allow me, I firmly believe, to become a devoted Member of Parliament, appreciated and attentive to the needs of citizens regardless of their origins. Caucasian, Cree, Algonquin or Inuit.”

The Greens are a young party and going that route in Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou. Green Party candidate Didier Pilon of Chibougamau is only 18 years old. 

Pilon wants to make sure that social and environmental issues are an important part of the riding’s future. But he has a lot of ground to make up as the Green Party only received 3.5% of the vote in the last election. Pilon plans to use social networks to offset this and show people that “there are still good people involved in politics. We must inspire them and regain their confidence.”

At press time the New Democratic Party had not nominated a candidate, which is a sad state of affairs in a riding once represented by someone of the stature of Romeo Saganash who even ran for the NDP leadership.

Well, here are your choices so far. No concrete or detailed issues, ideas, plans for the riding have been presented, but the next issue will have more.

After all, in these times, more than ever, we need to have a say in our future. A vote may be a small thing, but with the growth of our Indigenous populations we can make a difference. We have in the past and it’s time to do it once again. Pay attention to what is said, promised and commented on as we all want to leave a better world for the next generations.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.