OTTAWA – The sun was shining brightly on Parliament Hill on Monday as millions of Canadians headed to the polls to elect the seat of the next government occupants.
And still on the Tower of Peace, a reminder of a time when government decisions had fatal consequences for First Nations.
The Canadian flag remains at half mast to honor the memories of children who died in residential schools, a story their families have known for decades but which seemed to move the country to the core when previously unmarked graves began to be revealed in May. .
Since then, the graves of more than 1,300 children who died in schools have been recovered and more are being searched.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) initially suggested that some 4,100 children died in schools, but did not have the records to confirm a final count.
The issue tore the conscience of the country for weeks and seemed to mount pressure for governments to work faster and fulfill all Truth and Reconciliation calls to action to address the legacy of schools.
The pressure never fully exploded on the federal electoral route, although there was room for it to affect some outcomes: First Nations voters alone could make a difference in at least 24 constituencies, according to a list released by the Assembly of First Nations. Nations (AFN) last month.
Among them are some of the closest races in the country, including driving from Port Moody-Coquitlam in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
Meanwhile, the AFN says that 50 indigenous candidates registered for this election, representing 24 First Nations.
Four national parties, the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Popular Party, are running at least one indigenous candidate.
Of the leaders, Jagmeet Singh of the NDP most frequently used his campaign platform to draw attention to the continuing impact of residential schools, where thousands of children were ripped from their homes for the sole purpose of assimilating them into European society.
At the beginning of the campaign and then again towards the end, he visited communities that lived decades later with the aftermath, and also took his campaign to reserves that were still under drinking water warnings.
The fact that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau did not immediately break up with them in March this year, as he had promised to do in 2015, has been one of Singh’s talking points throughout the campaign as a reason why that progressive voters simply cannot trust him with the government again.
Trudeau has accused Singh of fomenting cynicism in that regard, and even in the middle of the campaign, his government announced the lifting of the boil-water warnings as proof that the work was still going on.
As they have done with many issues throughout the elections, the conservatives sought to use this campaign to change the name of their party on indigenous issues, although in the CVR’s calls to action, its platform only refers to related issues. with the graves of children in the reserves.
But O’Toole promised that the first thing a Conservative government would do would be to raise the flag on Parliament Hill.
O’Toole has said that he believes the federal flags should return to full mast on September 30, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, as it is an opportunity to re-commit to reconciliation.
Trudeau has said that flags should only be flown in consultation with indigenous leaders.
AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said late last month that the reality, regardless of the election outcome, is that Canadians are generally more supportive of indigenous issues than ever before.
“I know that all Canadians share our vision of happy and healthy children surrounded by the love and care of their families living in vibrant and safe communities,” he said.
“Strengthening and rebuilding First Nations will result in a stronger, just and better Canada for all of us.”
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