Legislature sees 3 Indigenous MLAs elected for first time since 2008

Facebook photo.

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – The results are in from the 2023 Alberta provincial election and there will be three Indigenous MLAs when the Legislature returns with a diminished UCP majority. There hasn’t been an Indigenous person in the Legislature since 2015.

In Edmonton-Rutherford, Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse won a landslide victory for the NDP with 64.2 per cent of the vote.

In Edmonton-West Henday, the NDP’s Brooks Arcand-Paul won 57 per cent of the vote.

For the UCP, Scott Sinclair won Lesser Slave Lake with 64.3 per cent of the vote.

Sinclair’s riding was previously represented by Metis PC MLA Pearl Calahasen from 1989 to 2015, when she was defeated by NDP candidate Danielle Larrivee, who lost in 2019 and ran again in 2023 against Sinclair.

There hasn’t been three Indigenous MLAs since 2008, when Calahsen, Frank Oberle and Mike Cardinal — all PCs who represented northern ridings — sat in the Legislature.

Sinclair’s grandfather, Sam Sinclair, lost the PC nomination to Calahasen in 1989.

“It’s everything kind of full circle that way,” Sinclair told Windspeaker. “I think (my mooshum) would be very proud of me.”

Sinclair expressed a desire to collaborate with his Indigenous colleagues across party lines.

“I’m a very collaborative person and I would listen to anybody on any issue, and I would certainly respectfully communicate with the other Indigenous members of the assembly,” he told Windspeaker.

“But I don’t consider myself only Indigenous either. I consider myself a really great leader and a person who is relatable to all people in my region. I look forward to representing all of them equally.”

Premier Danielle Smith excluded Sinclair — the first Indigenous UCP MLA — from her cabinet, which includes half her caucus. Rick Wilson, who is not Indigenous, is returning as Indigenous Relations Minister, a position he’s held since 2019.

Newly elected Edmonton-West Henday NDP MLA Arcand-Paul, in-house legal counsel for Alexander First Nation, where he is from, told APTN News that his and Calahoo Stonehouse’s victories represent a “huge … win for our communities.”

“This will be a strong voice to ensure that every single Albertan, whether they are Indigenous, whether they are queer, whether they are members of communities that require diversity and inclusion, we will speak with them on their behalf,” he added.

Upon his victory, Alexander First Nation posted a graphic on Facebook congratulating their “own newly elected MLA.”

“Keep making us proud,” it said.

Calahoo Stonehouse, who is from Michel First Nation, campaigned across the province for the NDP, going to Banff, Canmore, Morley, Lesser Slave Lake and Driftpile.

She introduced NDP leader Rachel Notley at election headquarters on election night, speaking about our “mutual obligation” under Treaty 6.

Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin offered his congratulations to Calahoo Stonehouse and Arcand-Paul on their victories.

“Both have the talent to be leader of the NDP and ultimately run for Premier one day,” Morin added.

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