Native youth, elders need to use votes to voice their issues



    NIPISSING FIRST NATION, Sept. 29 /CNW/ - In supporting the National
Chief's "National Day of Political Action," First Peoples Vote is encouraging
youth and elders to vote and continue to raise their issues with political
candidates during the course of the election.
    "We are encouraging all sectors of our communities to speak out, not only
by using their voices in this campaign, but by using their vote," said Grand
Council Chief John Beaucage of the Anishinabek Nation, who developed the First
Peoples Vote initiative. "We especially want our youth and elders to be vocal
throughout the campaign and use the power of their votes strategically."
    Across Canada, there are more than 115,000 First Nations youth (aged
18-30) of voting age. Education opportunities, skills development and training
continue to be their primary concern, an issue that Grand Council Chief
Beaucage would like to see partially addressed by a renewal of the Aboriginal
Human Resources Development Agreement (AHRDA).
    "Our young people are the fastest-growing demographic in Canada," said
Beaucage, "so Canada needs to renew AHRDA with a greater level of investment
in education, training, access and opportunities."
    "Providing First Nations youth with the opportunity to fully participate
in the skilled workforce is an investment in Canada's future," the Grand
Council Chief said. "Our youth are a vast, untapped source of young, willing
and able workers."
    Grand Council Chief Beaucage is encouraging youth to contact
"Broadcasting Consortium" which is coordinating the Oct. 1-2 televised debates
by national party leaders to ensure their issues are on the agenda.
    An immediate election-related concern for First Nations elders is the
requirement to produce official identification at the polling stations.
Election Canada regulations currently require either a government-issued photo
ID - such as a driver's license - two original pieces of ID (health card,
utility bills, etc.) or a sworn statement from another elector.
    "In many cases our elders don't have government-issued ID or utility
bills in their names," said Beaucage. "I'm concerned because it is just these
types of barriers that prevent our people from participating in the election."
    First Nations elders also want to make the state of indigenous languages
a significant election issue. It is estimated that only three languages:
Ojibwe (Anishinaabemowin), Cree, Inuktituit and will survive due to lack of
fluent speakers and learning opportunities. In 2006, the Anishinabek Nation
Grand Council, under the advice of Elders, Women and Youth, officially
declared that Anishinabemowin would be the official language of the
Anishinabek Nation and its 42-member First Nations.
    "Our elders have told us to raise the profile of our language into the
mainstream of Canadian society," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. "There is
no better way to achieve this then to make this an election issue."
    The Anishinabek Nation continues to urge the Government of Canada to
support the establishment of the Anishinabek Immersion Language Institute - an
innovative program that will improve Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) language
retention.
    The Assembly of First Nations named September 29 a National Day of
Political Action in First Nation communities. First Nation communities are
encouraged to participate in a variety of political activities such as
engaging with their citizens and local candidates, hosting community meetings
and town halls, discuss platforms with each other, and other political events
so that First Nation citizens can make an informed choice in the federal
election. This initiative is also aimed at soliciting a clear and robust First
Nations platform from each political party.
    First Peoples Vote and FirstPeoplesVote.com is a non-partisan initiative
that encourages First Peoples' (First Nation, Métis and Inuit) participation
in general elections, provides information to voters on issues that are
important to First Peoples' governments, provides information from the
mainstream political parties, provides resources to communities and provides
an online discussion forum to exchange opinions and ideas.
    The initiative was established by the Anishinabek Nation-Union of Ontario
Indians under the leadership of Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.

    The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its
secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First
Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political
organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of
Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.





For further information:

For further information: Bob Goulais, Executive Assistant to the Grand
Council Chief, Cell: (705) 498-5250, E-mail: goubob@anishinabek.ca; Marci
Becking, Communications Officer, Ph: (705) 497-9127 (Ext. 2290), E-mail:
becmar@anishinabek.ca

Organization Profile

Anishinabek Nation

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Union of Ontario Indians

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