By Brad Bellegarde

Regina SK – The File Hills Health Centre on the Okanese First Nation played host to the 2015 Federal Election polling station for all four File Hills reserves: Okanese, Starblanket, Little Black Bear and Peepeekesis. Unlike previous elections, this one was especially significant for many First Nations.

“This one is very critical,” said Peepeekesis band member Philip Brass, outside of the Okanese polling station. “As First Nations people, it’s almost (been) three years since Idle No More (and) I think a lot more of our people have become politically aware,” he added. “We understand how important it is to have a change in governance in this country,” said Brass.

Regina-Qu’Appelle is a riding that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) identified as one where First Nations could play a larger role in the outcome. The riding had 53,204 registered voters, and of those, 36,975 voted, meaning 69.5 percent of voters took time to cast their ballot. Those statistics do not take into account any voters who registered on election day.

Although Conservative incumbent Andrew Scheer won the riding for his fifth time, Liberal candidate Della Anaquod is pleased with a Liberal majority.

“As I have walked on every door step, tripped and fallen and saw the (run-down) housing (on-reserve), I know that investments into infrastructure, housing, employment, training and post-secondary [are] only going to help,” she said.

In his speech at the New Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters in Regina, candidate Nial Kuyek said that the Liberals have work to do with First Nations and the NDP should support them. “There’s a lot of big issues to be addressed with the relationship between Canada and the First Nations,” said Kuyek. “Many First Nations are comparable to third world countries and we need to address that,” he said. “The Liberal Government I hope will make the investments that are necessary to First Nations to resolve some of those problems,” he added.

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde who was actively promoting Aboriginal voting knows that there is still a lot of work to be done and said in a press release, “First Nations are ready to move. The Liberals put out a vision for real change. The Prime Minister spoke in his victory speech about a renewed nation-to-nation relationship that respects rights and honours Treaties. We are ready to start working now on those terms to close the gap together and build a stronger country for all of us.”

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