Leader of largest Mi’kmaw community calls Liberal majority “a big relief”

Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny at Mi'kmaq Treaty Day celebrations in Halifax Oct. 1/Photo by Stephen Brake

Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny called Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s victory in the federal election Monday “a big relief.”

“Finally, our voices are heard and I’m proud of our First Nation for voting.”

“I’m especially proud of my riding, especially in the Atlantic,” Chief Denny said when reached by phone on Tuesday. “It’s all Liberal.”

Eskasoni First Nation is the largest Mi’kmaw community in Atlantic Canada with approximately 3,700 residents.

The Liberal Party captured all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada in the 2015 federal election October 19. The Liberal sweep continued across the country as polling stations closed in the evening. In the end, the Liberal party captured 184 seats to form a majority government in the House of Commons.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party was reduced to 99 seats, demoting it to Official Opposition party status. The New Democratic Party won 44 seats while the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party received 10 seats and one seat respectively.

Denny said First Nation communities in the Atlantic region struggled under Harper’s Conservative government over the past 10 years.

“We weren’t being represented well because we didn’t have the government right on our side,” Chief Denny said. “Trying to get the economy going, you know. It was very, very difficult.”

According to Denny, more than 75 per cent of residents in Eskasoni First Nation showed up at the polling stations in the community to cast a ballot on Monday. That’s up from 35 per cent of residents who voted in 2011 federal election.

There was a push from First Nation leaders to encourage more Aboriginal people in the Atlantic region to vote in the 2015 federal election. Many communities held voter registration sessions at community gatherings to encourage band members to sign up to vote and get the proper documentation in advance.

Denny said he is optimistic that a Liberal government with Trudeau as Prime Minister will honour election promises such as nation-to-nation discussions and improvements to education in First Nation communities.

“It’s going to be an exciting term and I look forward to having that nation-to-nation discussion.”

Implementing Liberal Party promises could take a decade – Roger Augustine

Roger Augustine, Assembly of First Nations Vice Chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, echoed Chief Denny’s sentiments.

“This dark, heavy cloud has lifted and now we have a strong, young leader that will lead us to a better life in a sense and someone that honours the Aboriginal and treaty rights,” Vice Chief Augustine said when reached by phone on Tuesday.

While Augustine is optimistic that Prime Minister Designate Justin Trudeau will honour the election promises made to Aboriginal people, he says it will take more than a four-year term to address them all.

“In my opinion, I think that to implement all of this promises that Trudeau has put in our hearts and our minds, to me, would take a decade.”

Some of those Liberal Party election promises include:

  • Inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women
  • Implementation of the 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Investments to address water quality issues in First Nation communities
  • More money for education in First Nation communities

Augustine said an AFN meeting is scheduled to take place November 4-5 in Toronto so Aboriginal leaders can prioritize what issue needs to be addressed first.

“Every one of them is parallel to survival in our communities.”

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About Maureen Googoo 270 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.