By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras has issued a statement in response to the Alberta government’s refusal to observe Sept. 30 as the National Day of Reconciliation, tying it into their recent decision not to set up voting booths on reserve for October’s referenda and senate elections as examples of an anti-Indigenous bent in the United Conservative Party.
“There have been too many stories in recent days of this provincial government ignoring First Nations peoples and communities in the province as of late, enough is enough,” wrote Poitras.
“Why won’t the government step up and acknowledge this day, which directly responds to the TRC calls to action to bring more awareness to the struggles Canada’s First Peoples have gone through in dealing with colonization?”
While $10 million is being offered to municipalities to support voting in plebiscites and the senate elections on Oct. 18, no support is being offered to reserves to make it easier for First Nation members to vote, she added.
“Instead, we are told ‘drive to the nearest community’. For some nations in Alberta this is an over 100km trek in one direction, for others, they are fly in communities and are left without any options to participate in the democratic process,” says Poitras.
“This government’s actions are showing that First Nations aren’t just an afterthought, they are outright unimportant.”
As of writing there are two referenda occurring on municipal election day — one on whether the province should oppose the federal equalization program that transfers a portion of federal income taxes to lower-income provinces, which Premier Jason Kenney says is unfair to Alberta, and another on adopting Daylight Savings Time year-round.
Since reserves are technically not municipalities, their elections occur on different timelines and thus are not included in October’s civic election.
However, as Piikani Nation member Adam North Peigan previously told Alberta Native News, the provincial government is in effect disenfranchising First Nations by making it more difficult for them to vote than people in municipalities.
“These issues should have input from all Albertans, whether you’re pink, blue or black,” Peigan said.