Spurred by anger, Aboriginals may cast decisive vote in Canada election

Fri Sep 18, 2015 4:29pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG (Reuters) - Canada's Aboriginal people, less than half of whom usually vote because many do not recognize the government's sovereignty, could help decide the outcome of an unusually tight three-way federal election race in October.

Spurred by anger over disproportionately high rates of violence against indigenous women and poor living standards as well as resource development and environmental issues, Aboriginal voters are being urged by their national chief to vote.

Known as First Nations, indigenous Canadians want an inquiry into the cases of missing and murdered women. The ruling Conservative government has declined a national inquiry while the center-left Liberals and New Democrats support the idea.

"Clearly, there is an awakening happening," pollster Bruce Cameron said. "If either the Liberals or (New Democrats) can tap into that, that will be a really interesting factor in this election."

Grassroots efforts to draw attention to issues and heavy social media interest point to potentially higher participation.

Assembly of First Nations, the main Aboriginal political group, has identified 51, or 15 percent, of Canada's 338 electoral districts as including enough Aboriginal voters to swing results.

A study by poll tracker ThreeHundredEight.com said that, based on 2011 results, the New Democrats stand to gain the most if Aboriginals vote in heavy numbers.

The New Democrats are running 23 Aboriginal candidates, 10 more than in 2011. Liberals have 17 Aboriginal candidates while the Conservatives have four, including a current cabinet minister.   Continued...