When will there be an aboriginal party with its own deputies?

In Australia, five years after the Uluru meeting, which notably gave birth to the idea of ​​obtaining a voice in Parliament for Australian Aboriginals (Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders), representatives of the organization Voice to Parliament are now proposing to hold a national referendum on May 27, 2023 or January 27, 2024. With Australia’s federal election a month away, they want to make it an election issue.

What about us? In the Canadian Parliament, Aboriginal MPs are under-represented (11 MPs out of 338 currently) and they rarely reach ministerial positions. In Quebec, only two Aboriginal deputies have so far sat in the National Assembly and one of them (Ludger Bastien in 1924) even had to give up his Indian status to be able to sit.

So when will there be a federal or provincial aboriginal party so that aboriginal interests are better represented?

It is important for the First Nations that there are forums or consultation models where they feel listened to and heard. »

A quote from Alexis Wawanoloath, lawyer and former PQ MP

The former Abenaki MP stresses in the same breath that the experiments attempted over the past forty years have yielded mixed results.

The regional consultation tables yield few results. We have seen this in particular with the Atikamekw in the case of logginglaunches in an interview with Espaces autochtones the one who is now a lawyer with the firm Neashish & Champoux, in Wendake.

Create a Council of Regions and Nations

If he points out that the model of governance between the Crees and non-Aboriginals in Jamésie (Nord-du-Québec) is interestinghe mentions, however, the importance of not not only manage the files piecemeal in order to be able to get to the heart of the problem, which is the possession of the territory and the autonomy.

Alexis Wawanoloath is sworn in at a ceremony Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at the National Assembly of Quebec.

Alexis Wawanoloath during his swearing-in as PQ MP for Abitibi-Est in 2007.

Photo: The Canadian Press / CLEMENT ALLARD

He suggests creating, in the National Assembly of Quebec, a permanent parliamentary committee devoted to Aboriginal issues. In a second phase, a second parliamentary chamber could also be set up: the Council of Regions and Nations (like the German Federal Council which represents the federal state in Germany).

Investing in places of power to advance Indigenous claims can be a productive strategydeclared in 2020 Alexis Wawanoloath in a plural work entitled Indigenous peoples and politics in Quebec and Canada. He also believes that Indigenous voices will increasingly be heardespecially in educational institutions, and that it will lead people to want to invest in a real reconciliation that will not only benefit the colonizing state and its society.

Overcome inertia

As a professor at the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Sébastien Brodeur-Girard has taught law and governance every year since 2019 to Indigenous people from across the province. He feels no appetite for the creation of an indigenous political party like the Maori Party in New Zealand.

In Canada, Aboriginal people did not obtain the right to vote until 1960 (1969 in Quebec), so there is not a great tradition of electoral participation among them.notes the professor.

Also, several communities such as the Crees or the Mohawks consider themselves independent of a colonial system and have decided to create their own political institutions (health, police, justice, youth protection) in order to manage and defend their interests according to their own agenda and with their methods. »

A quote from Sébastien Brodeur-Girard, professor at the School of Native Studies at UQAT

In addition, given their spread across the country, the chances of a potential Aboriginal party having elected MPs are generally low, according to him. Except in certain northern ridings, such as Manitoba, as well as at the municipal level, where the demographic weight of Aboriginal people is beginning to be felt in certain political decisions, notably in Winnipeg, Val-d’Or or La Tuque.

What seems certain is that many Aboriginal leaders are beginning to lose patience. Thursday, in the face of what they deem as a lack of will and listening governments, the Chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) announced the creation of an Office of Self-Determination and Self-Government.

Ghislain Picard speaks at the microphone in front of the lectern along with other First Nations members.

AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard with other First Nations members.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

I want to remind François Legault and his government that we are alive and well, the First Nations are alive and committed to their future […] We are distinct peoples with inherent rights, including the right to self-determination and self-government. »

A quote from Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL

This is also the observation made by certain Aboriginal leaders in northern Quebec, where three Nations (Cree, Inuit and Naskapi) announced last week their desire to form a common front. The forum that will be set up will meet quarterly to discuss common issues such as economic development or caribou management.

In a press conference, the representatives of the alliance also indicated that they wanted to press for their own constituency.

At the moment, when there is an election, non-Native people south of us, say in the Val-d’Or region, are more numerous and will vote for someone they think is the right person for them- samesaid Pita Aatami, president of the Makivik Corporation which represents the Inuit.

Mandy Gull-Masty (Cree), Pita Aatami (Inuit) and Theresa Chemaganish (Naskapi) show a text.

From left to right: Mandy Gull-Masty (Cree), Pita Aatami (Inuit) and Theresa Chemaganish (Naskapi)

Photo: The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld

Could we also automatically reserve certain elected seats (in Parliament or the National Assembly) for Aboriginal people?

I don’t believe there would be any legal or constitutional obstacles, but it remains to be seen whether there is interest in this and whether these positions would have any power or not.launches the professor ofUQAT. He points out that, even in New Zealand, the system put in place does not give as much power as expected to the Maori Aboriginals.

The New Zealand example

Of the Commonwealth countries, New Zealand has gone furthest in terms of Indigenous representation in Parliament. It must be said that the country has more than 16% of Maoris (compared to 4.9% of Aboriginal people in Canada and 2.3% in Quebec).

And since 1867, unlike Aboriginal people in Quebec and Canada, Maori have had seats reserved for them in Parliamentnotes anthropologist Natacha Gagné in an article published in June 2021 (New window) in the magazine Native American research in Quebec.

Another important difference, she notes, is that in 1996 New Zealand adopted a compensatory mixed-member proportional system, which allows small parties to obtain parliamentary seats as soon as they obtain more than 5% of the votes.

So when in 2004, the Maori Party was formed in the wake of a conflict with the government over the exclusive ownership of the seabed, it quickly won four seats in 2005, then five in 2008, when it joined the conservative coalition in power.

A Maori man has traditional face tattoos and wears glasses and a black hat.

Rawiri Waititi is the co-leader of the New Zealand Maori Party.

Photo: TVNZ/Reuters

By acceding to the government, the Maori Party was able to obtain a national program of health services adapted to the Maori reality and exclusive institutions were created in particular in matters of language or media. But the party had less success in the fight against poverty, in employment or in education, and even split in two with the creation of a left wing, notes the researcher from Laval University.

Today, the political party is not part of the ruling coalition, but the current Labor government still has 18 elected Maori out of 75, and five of them have a post in the Cabinet.

How to explain this growth? In 1975 in a reconciliation effort, New Zealand established the Waitangi Tribunal (named after the original 1840 treaty flouted by the British). Since 1989, its recommendations have given rise to some fifty reparation and compensation agreements that have enabled Maori to make considerable investments, in addition to encouraging Aboriginal entrepreneurship.

This allowed the tribes to gradually establish themselves as major players on the economic scene, which significantly contributed to changing the political dynamics of New Zealand by making them essential players. »

A quote from Natacha Gagné, anthropologist

In 2018, according to one study, the Maori economy accounted for NZ$68.7 billion (about C$56.5 billion), or one-third of New Zealand’s economy. It also grew by 60% between 2013 and 2018, even if socio-economic gaps remain.

Conclusion of the researcher: The rise of the Maori Party marked the beginning of a movement that henceforth Maori would trust the powers of Parliament rather than turn to the courts when they wanted constitutional changes.

All these positive changes concerning the condition of the Maoris in New Zealand are, in part, the direct or indirect fruit of the reform of the electoral system., she adds. She also thinks that Quebec or Canada would do well to follow suit.

The reform of the voting system seems to me to be one of the promising ways to allow Aboriginals to participate in parliamentary debates and therefore in social debates and to be able to influence developments that affect Aboriginals and, more broadly, Quebecers and Canadians. »

A quote from Natacha Gagné, anthropologist

In New Zealand, the increased participation of Maori in democratic bodies has certainly contributed to giving greater visibility to Maori issues and perspectives, she confided to Indigenous Spaces, deploring in passing that this federal Liberal election promise and some CAQ to reform the voting system has not been held.


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