Crystal Schick/Yukon News Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, left, and Kluane Adamek, the regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations, speak about a campaign to engage First Nations and encourage informed voting for the upcoming federal election at a press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 1.

First Nations leaders launch campaign to bolster voter turnout

‘From a regional perspective, being 23 per cent of the population here, we have huge influence’

Engagement equals votes from Yukon First Nations people in the upcoming federal election, leaders say.

That’s why they’ve launched a campaign to get information out that will help voters make informed choices.

The goal is turnout that’s on par with — or eclipses — the number of voters during the last federal election, where roughly 61 per cent of Indigenous people showed up to the polls across the country, according to Kluane Adamek, the Yukon regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations.

“That’s been the largest ever in Canadian history,” she said. “Our right to vote wasn’t always there, as Indigenous people, as women, and so this is a really important moment of opportunity to get people in the information, so that they’re able to cast their ballots.”

Initiatives include a “report card” that unpacks party platforms, information on how to register to vote and harnessing social media to bolster educated politics. An all-candidates debate is slated for Oct. 7 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre where priorities for First Nations will be articulated. For those living outside of Whitehorse, the event will be live streamed on social media.

Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, said four candidates have since signed up to be part of the debate.

Working to curtail climate change and protect the environment are hot-button topics for First Nations, Adamek said.

“This is about communication,” she said. “It’s about being very clear about Yukon First Nations’ priorities. It’s also about taking a look back. Looking at those federal commitments in the past.”

The strategy, she continued, is non-partisan, one in which will help get youth more involved.

Something like it was rolled out ahead of the last federal election, Johnston said.

Other priorities include ensuring that lawmakers in Ottawa are aware of the political climate in the territory, in terms of final agreements, he said — that they will be held accountable to this task.

Adamek said too often federal processes are inequitable

“They don’t reflect the needs of Northerners. There are extreme issues with funding parity,” she said.

“This becomes about commitment, this becomes about following through, this becomes about understanding and this becomes about creating that energy and ensuring our young people and our citizens and our communities have all the information they need.”

There were 50 federal candidates during the last election who were Indigenous, she continued.

“This year, there’s over 60, so you’re seeing that number grow.”

In 2015, 27 ridings were influenced by the Indigenous vote, Adamek said.

“And we understand that could have gone up to 51.

“From a regional perspective, being 23 per cent of the population here, we have huge influence, and I think that becomes a really important moment to reflect on.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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