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Three new Indigenous MPs secure ridings for NDP and Conservative parties

·4 min read

There are likely to be three new Indigenous members of Parliament in the House of Commons following a federal election that had a record number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit candidates.

Blake Desjarlais, who is Métis, was declared the winner in Edmonton Griesbach, which has been held by Conservative MP Kerry Diotte since the riding was created in 2015. Mail-in ballots were still being tallied on Tuesday, however.

Adam Chambers, also Métis, took the seat of Simcoe-North in Ontario for the Conservatives.

Lori Idlout kept Nunavut orange and will replace NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who decided not to run again.

"Mumilaaq has shown what can happen when we have strong Indigenous voices (in Parliament), and we just need to make sure we continue on that path of strength," Idlout said in an interview.

She said some of her main priorities after getting to Ottawa will include housing and mental-health services for the territory.

Nine of at least 78 candidates were incumbents and all successfully retained their seats, so if Desjarlais hangs on, there will be 12 Indigenous MPs in the 338-seat Parliament — up by one from the 2019 election.

Leah Gazan for the NDP and Marc Dalton for the Conservatives were re-elected.

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay with the Bloc Québécois, a member of Huron-Wendat Nation in Quebec, was voted in again.

Dan Vandal was one of six Liberal incumbents to hold onto their seats.

Vandal, who represents Saint Boniface-Saint Vital in Manitoba, said in an interview that the Liberals have been proactive in recruiting Indigenous candidates. The party said it had 25 candidates on its roster this election.

Vandal said there are some barriers that prevent Indigenous candidates from running.

"It takes a good amount of money to run a decent campaign. That's often something that holds back Indigenous candidates," he said.

A PhD candidate in political science said Monday's results can be seen as a win for Indigenous people, but there is still a gap between the number of candidates running compared with how many get into office.

"I worry if there is continuing to be no (better) results, that (enthusiasm) will fizzle out," said Philip Charbonneau of Western University in London, Ont.

Charbonneau said he was surprised Saskatchewan didn't elect a single Indigenous MP.

The northern riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River has one of the highest numbers of First Nations electors, says the Assembly of First Nations.

There were three Indigenous candidates in the riding, including heavily favoured Buckley Belanger who left his position as an NDP member of the Saskatchewan legislature to run for the Liberals, but the seat ultimately stayed with Conservative incumbent Gary Vidal.

Similarly, some experts thought the riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski in northern Manitoba could switch parties for the first time in more than a decade.

The riding has the largest First Nations population, says the Assembly of First Nations, but NDP incumbent Niki Ashton, who is non-Indigenous, has held the seat since 2008. She beat three Indigenous candidates, including Liberal Shirley Robinson, a Cree woman who finished second and who had received endorsements from First Nations leaders.

Charbonneau said voter apathy and historically low voter turnout on reserves could have played a role in some of results.

"Maybe because nobody really seemed to want (this election), that also played out in Indigenous communities and they also decided not to show up at the polls again."

Elections Canada said 58 per cent of Canadians voted this year.

Kathy Walker, who is Cree and an assistant professor in political studies at the University of Saskatchewan, said it may be too soon to tell how voting went on reserves, but expects it to be low due to the pandemic and challenges around voting in some remote communities.

She added some Indigenous voters have moved away from participating.

"They don't vote in the elections of Canada because they see that as undermining the sovereignty of their Indigenous nation."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2021.

___

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said there were eight successful Indigenous incumbents, but the count did not include Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay.

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