Regional chief wants First Nation seats in Canada’s parliament – by Rick Garrick (Wawatay News – September 13, 2012)

Northern Ontario’s First Nations Voice:

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy is calling on the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission to consider guaranteed First Nations seats in Canada’s parliament, like the system in New Zealand.
“I see that the Ontario Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission is proposing 15 new ridings in southern Ontario,” Beardy said. “What I’d like to point out is that in some countries, like New Zealand, indigenous nations like the Maori have their own political parties because they are given some semblance of recognition in their country as original peoples. Maybe now would be the appropriate time to make sure that seats are guaranteed within jurisdictions of Ontario and Canada for First Nations people to make sure that the Aboriginal voice is heard.”
New Zealand’s 1867 Parliament set up four electorates specifically for Maori people. The Maori seats were increased in 1996 to five when New Zealand changed their election system from a first-past-the-post to a mixed member proportional representation system, and increased to seven seats in 2002.
“Maori have claimed that the Maori electoral option, by which Maori can elect to join the Maori electoral roll and vote for candidates in the Maori seats, are one of the few guarantees in (New Zealand)’s constitution that a distinct Maori voice will be heard in politics,” said Andrew Robb, press secretary in the office of Pita R Sharples,minister of Maori Affairs in New Zealand, in an e-mail reply.

Although Canada’s Parliament is not a First Nations system, Beardy said First Nations people need to push for some mechanism where the Aboriginal voice is heard.
“Seats have to be guaranteed and set aside for First Nations people within jurisdictions,” Beardy said. “Until such time as we are recognized as real people and we get that negotiated where seats are guaranteed for Aboriginal and First Nations people, we will continue to struggle because we’re scattered (across Ontario).”
Federal electoral districts are adjusted after every 10-year census to reflect changes in population patterns. During the last redistribution, northern Ontario dropped from 11 to 10 seats.
Under the latest proposed redistribution, northern Ontario is not losing any of its 10 seats.

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