by Roxanna Woloshyn
Popular issues in the current civic election have been the stadium, the housing crisis, and the lack of women candidates but there is another big issue that’s getting a lot less attention. There is only one self-declared aboriginal candidate running in this election. April Bourgeois is running for public school board and she has self-declared as Metis.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2006 Regina had a population of 194,971 people and 17,100 were aboriginal. If there is just one declared aboriginal person running for election in Regina, then about 9 percent of the population is not being represented. This is based on the 2006 census because the report on aboriginal populations from the 2011 census has not been released yet.
It’s difficult to determine whether a candidate is First Nations or Métis because the city does not record that information.
“We don’t have anything on our nomination forms that ask anybody to declare their ethnicity. So the only way we know a candidate has First Nations or Métis background is if they self-proclaim,” said returning officer, Joni Swidnicki.
One way to determine if someone is aboriginal is if the candidate declared it in his or her biography which is posted to the city’s website. But so far, no candidate running for mayor or councilor has identified him or herself as aboriginal in their online biographies.
“I have to admit I am not aware of (any aboriginal candidates) in this election, but that doesn’t mean that there is not anybody. It just hasn’t been drawn to my attention,” said Swidnicki.
University of Regina students at the Aboriginal Students Centre say they are not surprised at the lack of candidates in the city because there are still issues that need to be addressed on the reserves.
“I think we already have enough problems running our own reservations. I think we need to resolve our own problems first before we try (in civic politics),” said Candace Pelletier, an international studies student. “I don’t think we’re ready yet for an aboriginal mayor.”
Gilles Dorval, aboriginal relations advisor with the City of Saskatoon works to support First Nations and Métis people who are interested in running for public office. But he said it often comes down to the fact that there are more pressing issues on the minds of aboriginal people than civic politics.
“A lot of the aboriginal people who have become urbanized and come into the city they’re still getting their feet on the ground, so to speak, in the community. A lot of aboriginal people are in survival mode… shelter, food safety. So they’re dealing with other issues. “