National Aboriginal Day – Let’s make it Political

The summer solstice is celebrated in many different ways by indigenous peoples in Canada. Several of the High Plains peoples – Blackfoot, Plains Cree, Blood, Anishinaabe etc. – perform the Sun Dance ceremony. Mohawks stage Wainodayo, a dance for ripe strawberries, a fruit believed to renew the spirit. The Mi’kmaq peoples of Atlantic Canada hold a Solstice Sunrise ceremony while many Inuit communities celebrate the winter solstice, the first day that the sun makes a brief noonday appearance.

For non-Aboriginal peoples it is a chance to learn more about the ways in which Aboriginal peoples provided the foundation and shaped the creation of the young country. And of course, an opportunity to showcase cultural activities that are the envy of the world. We would like to mark the day, however, as we do every day in our union ― by doing what we can to further the rights of the First Peoples of Turtle Island.

Since forming a majority government in 2011, the federal Conservatives have passed several pieces of legislation that did just the opposite. Funding was cut to all of the national Aboriginal organizations, including  the  Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The Conservatives put a stop to environmental protection for more than 2.5 million lakes and rivers, many on First Nation traditional territories. They have underfunded on-reserve infrastructure, like schools, hospitals and housing, and there are currently more than 120 First Nation communities under boil water advisories. And despite widespread public support, the Conservative government has repeatedly refused to establish a public inquiry into the more than 1,200 indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing.

It didn’t have to be that way.

If more Aboriginal people had voted in the last election and had voted for the main Liberal or NDP candidate in their riding, as many as 14 ridings that elected Conservatives could have instead elected a member of the opposition. Harper would not have won a majority.

We understand that some Aboriginal people choose not to participate in the election of a foreign government, and we respect that decision. But for those who don’t vote because they don’t believe it will change anything or that their vote won’t make a difference, we urge you to vote in the election, scheduled for October 19. The PSAC is working with the AFN and other organizations to produce material that will give people the information they need to vote. It will be distributed soon.

Another four years of Conservative government will cause irreparable harm to Canada. Please encourage everyone you know to cast a ballot in the fall. Aboriginal peoples can be the difference.

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June 19, 2015
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