SASKATOON – Aboriginal voters could sway as many as 51 ridings across the country in the federal election. Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde made the pronouncement while speaking Thursday in Saskatoon.
Bellegarde said up until this point in the campaign, First Nations issues and priorities haven’t been a major focus. He said the key in this election is closing the gap between the quality of life of indigenous people and the rest of Canadians.
IN DEPTH: Federal Election 2015
“We need to bring about change because if we don’t do that, the MPs, potential members of parliament, potential prime ministers, don’t care about First Nations issues because they don’t vote, they don’t help us get elected so that’s not a priority for us’ and we don’t want that happening anymore,” said Bellegarde, who was speaking at a justice conference.
“Our issues matter, our people, our concerns matter and our vote will matter on October 19th because it’s such a close election.”
According to Elections Canada, the average voter turnout on First Nations reserves is 44 per cent, 17 per cent lower than the national average.
In September, Bellegarde said he had never voted in a national election, calling it a personal choice. He has since said he will cast his first federal election ballot this time around.
Meaghan Craig contributed to this story