Chiefs are urging thousands of First Nations voters to get involved in the federal election, to improve the lives of their people.
That was the call B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Shane Goffriedson put out recently, and it was echoed by Katzie First Nation Chief Susan Miller.
“Our population is young; we need to harness this energy,” said Gottfriedson.
He asserts that a mobilized Nations vote could have an effect on the electoral result in 51 of 338 ridings.
The Katzie is a comparatively small band, with 552 members, but Miller said every vote counts.
“I think we can all make a difference,” said Miller. “By not voting we consent to the status quo, and the status quo is not good enough for me.”
“Too many of our families are living in poverty,” said Gottfriedson. “Now is the time for our people to mobilize the vote and create innovative partnerships that will help improve the quality of life for First Nations in Canada.”
He said First Nations people lag behind the rest of Canada in the UN human development index. Canada has ranked between sixth and eighth, while first nations fall between 63rd and 78th.
First Nations people face poorer health, a shorter lifespan, housing shortages, increased incarceration rates. He pointed at communities with water boiling advisories and the high numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Miller agreed the poverty on B.C. reserves, including Katzie, is disproportionate to Canada as a whole.
Studies have shown that bringing the human development index of first nations to the same level as the rest of Canada would save $115 billion in social costs related to poverty, and add $400 million to the national economy, said Gottfriedson.
Miller said Goffriedson is not the first chief to encourage aboriginal people to get involved politically.
“First nations leaders have always encouraged their members to vote, without telling them how to vote,” said Miller.
“Personally, I believe I have an obligation to vote – in every election.”