The election of 2015 will be remembered for the large number of Aboriginal voters who turned up at the polls and for the record number of Aboriginal candidates elected across Canada. In total, 54 candidates ran and ten candidates were elected.
The Liberal Party had eight Indigenous candidates elected: Jody Wilson-Raybould, Michael McLeod, Vance Badawey, Robert Falcon Ouelette, Don Rusnak, Hunter Tootoo, Dan Vandal, and Yvonee Jones. The NDP had 22 candidates Indigenous candidates in 2015, but only Georgina Jolibois and Romeo Saganash were successful. The Conservative Party had only two candidates; both were defeated. The the Green Party had 10 Indigenous candidates, but no winners.
The Red Wave or the Liberal landslide saw a record number of Aboriginal candidates elected. The new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has selected a new cabinet that includes three newly elected Aboriginal MP’s.
Jody Wilson-Raybould is Justice Minister. She is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation. Jody’s father Bill Wilson is a lawyer and political activist and was the second First Nations lawyer to graduate from UBC. Alfred Scow, Bill’s cousin was the first lawyer to graduate and was also the first Native judge to be appointed in BC. Jody’s mother Sandra is a teacher. “Dad encouraged us to be critical thinkers and to look at the world from all different perspectives. Law school seemed like the most appropriate pace to be,” Jody told the CBC.
In 2000, Jody became crown prosecutor in Vancouver. “As a former prosecutor at the criminal court in Vancouver at Main Street, I witnessed a disproportionate number of Indigenous people in the justice system.” In 200, she started working for the BC Treaty commission and eventually became commissioner. She was elected as regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations in 2009 and was re-elected in 2013.
As Justice Minister, Jody’s first project will be implementing an inquiry on missing Aboriginal women, and she will also have to deal with the Liberal promise of legalizing marijuana. However, her main reason for entering politics was to implement the suggestions from the Truth and Reconciliation report. “Our highest courts have told us that we must do this, must reconcile through processes developed between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples. To paraphrase the late Nelson Mandela, beyond the important and the necessary work of truth telling and of healing, reconciliation actually requires laws to change and policies to be rewritten, where the legitimate political institutions of Aboriginal peoples are recognized and empowered and the laws they make enforceable.”
Hunter Tootoo the Nunavut MP was appointed minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Tootoo defeated Leona Aglukkaq to become the second Inuk ever to be named cabinet minister. Tootoo worked within the Nunavut legislative assembly from 1999 to 2013, but he realizes Ottawa will be a big adjustment for him. “Being an MP is a big learning curve,” Tootoo told the media. “Being a minister is almost a colossal learning curve. Suddenly you’re in charge of usually a large government department; you’re schedule is immediately overtaken; a huge number of people want your time and attention, so it’s really a double learning curve for rookie MPs.”
Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouelette, winner in Winnipeg Centre told the CBC, “The goal of this campaign was never, never just to win. The goal of this campaign was to see your values reflected in Ottawa, to see your values reflected in our Parliament.”
This sentiment was shared by all Indigenous candidates, including Don Rusnak who defeated John Rafferty in Thunder Bay. “We canvassed the First Nations here in the riding, and we were hearing a different story, that much like all the people in the riding, they saw Justin Trudeau and the plan as a positive plan for change.”
Yvonne Jones was re-elected in Labrador. “I’m very excited. I’m so proud of the people of Labrador,” Jones told the media. ” They want to see hope; they want people working hard; they want people who are honest, have great integrity, and they saw that in our campaign, and they certainly saw that in our leader, and they came out in spades to vote for us.”