OTTAWA — The Assembly of First Nations is urging aboriginal people to vote in the Oct. 19 election but the challenge involved is underscored by AFN national chief Perry Bellegarde’s admission that he doesn’t intend to cast a ballot himself.
Bellegarde says he’s never voted in a federal election because he’s been in First Nations leadership roles and wanted to preserve the appearance of impartiality.
Moreover, he says he wanted to show respect for First Nations elders who advised him against voting, believing that the Crown has treaty obligations to First Nations that must be honoured no which party forms government.
But Bellegarde says he appreciates that his personal choice undermines the AFN’s campaign to mobilize aboriginal voters, so he’ll “revisit” his decision.
The AFN says there are 51 ridings across the country in which aboriginal voters could determine the outcome, if they actually turned out.
Elections Canada estimates that the average turnout for eligible voters on First Nations reserves is 44 per cent, well below the overall 61 per cent turnout in 2011.