With Stephen Harper stepping down from his party’s helm in the wake of a Liberal victory, First Nations leaders seem to have accomplished their goal of helping to defeat the Conservatives.
The Tories also lost Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s riding of Madawaska-Restigouche in New Brunswick.
According to Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, that’s a telling loss. “I think that’s a strong message in terms of not getting the job done,” Bellegarde told CTV News as the results came in.
In the days after the Liberal sweep, Bellegarde says that First Nations people have a clear mission: “To build a relationship first with the new prime minster.”
First Nations leaders and advocates locked horns with the Conservatives over a wide array of indigenous issues, from treaty rights and Aboriginal education to the ability to get clean water on reserves.
The call to defeat the Conservatives first came in July as chiefs highlighted 51 ridings that they believed could be swayed away from the Tories with a strong turnout of Native voters.
Of those 51 ridings –14 of which were Conservative — at least five were taken away from the Tories, with several neck-and-neck races still waiting to report a winner late Monday:
It’s unclear how much of Monday’s result was directly influenced by First Nations voters; Elections Canada is expected to release more detailed polling numbers in the following days.
But First Nations leaders say they expect to see a large increase from the 2011 election, when just 45 per cent of people living on reserves cast votes.
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