It’s a change an Edmonton advocate says is important.
“The remarkable thing about this election is where we’re starting to see ourselves more represented, more clearly in parliament,” said Jeffrey Chalifoux, executive director with the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society.
NDP candidate Desjarlais won his seat Monday night with 40.5 per cent of the votes, flipping the riding from Conservative. Former Edmonton city councillor Kerry Diotte held the seat since it was created in 2015.
“I think what made the difference in our election is making sure that we’re present in the community, we’re active in the community, and we’re there for people, because we’re going to be,” Desjarlais told Shaye Ganam on Thursday.
Two Spirit is a difficult identity to explain. According to Chalifoux, who uses they/them pronouns, the definition can mean something different to different Indigenous people.
The Edmonton 2 Spirit Society has adopted the understanding that “Two Spirit peoples transcend the boundaries that are set by the binary of male and female, thereby restoring our gender fluidity among our people,” they explained.
“It’s to really help understand the diversity of traditions, cultures and understandings that have been lost to our people as we try to redefine ourselves, as well as find those cultures and traditions that have been buried.”
Electing someone who identifies in a way that is maybe less understood or common than other parts of the LGBTQ2S community, Chalifoux said, not only helps to make that identity more commonplace, it shows Indigenous youth growing up who may identify as Two Spirit that their voices can be heard.
“There is space available for us, even though we have been pushed to the margins and nearly eradicated and we are going through high amounts of suicide and grief and loss right now in our communities, as we have for some time.
“Our youth are going to know that, that it’s ok. It’s ok to identify who you are, to be your true being, and to see that, you know, we can be represented on TV, we can be represented in the news, we can be represented in our leadership and in parliament.”
In the 2021 election, there will be three new Indigenous MPs: Desjarlais, Adam Chambers, also Metis, who took the seat of Simcoe-North in Ontario for the Conservatives and Lori Idlout, who kept Nunavut orange, will replace NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who decided not to run again.
That means there will be 12 Indigenous MPs in this cabinet, up by one from the 2019 election.
On top of being Indigenous and Two Spirit, Desjarlais is also one of the youngest people elected in this campaign.
“These are some of the issues and some of the demographics that are currently missing from the House of Commons and have historically missed these perspectives from the House of Commons, which largely, I believe, contribute to the disenfranchisement of so many people in our community.”
Desjarlais is the only Indigenous MP from Alberta.