Growing Indigenous Mobilization for the 2015 Federal Elections

A number of youth-led, grass-roots campaigns are encouraging aboriginal peoples to vote in the upcoming federal elections. A Facebook page entitled, “Winnipeg Indigenous Rock The Vote In The 42nd Federal Election Oct 19 2015” already has around 800 members 1. The “Indigenous Rock the Vote” movement is building on a successful “Rock the Vote” campaign during the recent Mayoral Elections that saw the election of Winnipeg’s first Metis Mayor, Brian Bowman. While young people are taking the lead in mobilizing indigenous voters, this should not be read as an implicit endorsement of the Canadian system of governance. Rather, it is one part of a broader strategy to fend off continuing colonial dispossession as it manifests in particular areas. This includes ensuring that people who do decide to vote have the proper documentation to cast their ballot, including proof of residence. This is a particular issue on some reserves where there are no formal street addresses. In the past, this did not pose such a problem since there was an accepted process that allowed community members to “vouch” for the residency of other members of the community. This practice is no longer considered valid by Elections Canada. An indigenous youth organizer from Saskatchewan described the consequences of such procedural shifts as both depressing and confusing. “The most heartbreaking stories that I hear are the elders who found a ride, go where they needed to go to make a vote and then they get turned away and they don’t understand why,” she says. “They’re crushed because they made it out and then they get turned away and it’s a hard thing to explain to them” 2.