With only two weeks before Saskatchewan voters pick their next provincial government, the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) is making a final push to get First Nations into polling booths.
“Everybody deserves the right to vote and everybody should exercise that right,” STC chief Felix Thomas said.
STC launched their initiative to get First Nations residents registered and inform them of the important of voting. From the White Buffalo Youth Lodge to schools, the food bank and door knocking,
STC has attended events across the city to hand out informational flyers and talk to residents. The flyers show residents what information the STC has available to them, how to prepare to vote and what identification is accepted at the polls.
The campaign follows a federal election which saw the highest First Nations voter turn out in two decades.
The council pushed hard for indigenous peoples to vote in the federal election and continued their efforts as a provincial election approached.
“Voting gets people engaged and for the last number of years our First Nations people haven’t been engaged in the mainstream political system,” Thomas said.
Thomas said with more than 6,200 First Nations students in Saskatoon, much of their effort has centered around rallying the youth vote. He praised movements like Idle No More for increasing youth engagement in politics.
However, he said the biggest challenge is informing residents about the importance of provincial politics.
On Monday STC sent letters to all the political parties outlining what they believe are the key issues affecting First Nations in Saskatoon including housing, education, health, economic development and gaming.
Thomas said the parties’ platforms had generic First Nations issues and lacked the complexity and uniqueness of every community.
“We have to be flexible enough to accommodate all the differences,” he said.
He hopes whoever forms the next government will include the STC in conversations about what matters to First Nations and in the decision making process.