Three Indigenous people in Atlantic Canada are running in the Oct. 21 federal election. One candidate is seeking re-election while the other two are running for the first time.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Liberal candidate Yvonne Jones, who is of Inuit descent, is seeking re-election in the riding of Labrador. Noel Joe, who is Mi’kmaq, is running for the New Democratic Party in the riding of Coast of Bays – Central – Notre Dame.
Jaime Battiste, who is also Mi’kmaq, is running for the Liberal party in the riding of Sydney-Victoria in Nova Scotia.
For Joe and Battiste, this is the first time Mi’kmaw candidates are running in a federal election in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
Jaime Battiste (Liberal): Sydney-Victoria riding
Jaime Battiste, 39, is running for the Liberal Party in the federal riding of Sydney-Victoria in Cape Breton, N.S. He decided to seek the nomination after Liberal MP Mark Eyking announced in Feb. he wouldn’t seek re-election.
The other candidates running in Sydney-Victoria so far are Eddie Orrell for the Conservative party and Jodi McDavid for the NDP.
Battiste is a member of the Potlotek First Nation but has lived his entire life in Eskasoni First Nation, the largest Mi’kmaw community in Atlantic Canada. He is currently the Treaty Education Lead for the Nova Scotia government.
Battiste earned his law degree from Dalhousie University in 2004. He served as a youth council representative for the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Atlantic Youth Council and with the Assembly of First Nations National Youth Council. He has written about Mi’kmaw laws, history and knowledge and has taught at university.
Battiste says he chose to run for the Liberal Party because he believes the party has made significant progress in the past four years in areas of health care, the environment, increasing job opportunities and reconciliation with Indigenous people.
“I think we need to move forward. We need to move forward together and not go backwards to the Harper policies under (Conservative party leader) Andrew Scheer,” Battiste said.
Battiste hopes that more Indigenous voters come out to vote in this election like they did in the 2015 federal election.
“In 2015, Indigenous voters showed up like never before. They need to have that same urgency if they don’t want to go backwards,” Battiste explained.
“There’s so many ridings across Nova Scotia where Mi’kmaw can determine who gets in. I would strongly encourage them all to go out and vote,” he said.
Noel Joe (NDP): Coast of Bays – Central – Notre Dame riding
Noel Joe is running for the New Democratic Party in the federal riding of Coast of Bays – Central – Notre Dame. The Mi’kmaq from the Miawpukek First Nation, N.L. hopes to unseat Liberal incumbent Scott Simms.
Joe is one of four candidates challenging Simms. The three other candidates include Conservative candidate Alessandro Bracci, Green candidate Byron White and Donovan Snow for the Rhinoceros party.
Joe, 31, has been involved in Indigenous politics for more than a decade. He previously served on the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Atlantic Youth Council and the Assembly of First Nations Youth Council. He served as a band councillor for the Miawpukek First Nation from 2012-2014.
“I’m a strong believer in community initiatives and the importance of building strong relationships with all community leaders in all levels of government,” Joe said.
“I want to make a difference in the lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” he said. “My values align with the NDP’s values that nobody is left behind.”
Joe says he feels proud that he is one of three Indigenous candidates in the Atlantic region running in the Oct. 21 federal election.
“I’m so glad to see other Indigenous candidates stepping forward because we can make a difference and we can make a change.,” Joe said.
Yvonne Jones (Liberal): Labrador riding
Yvonne Jones is seeking a third term to represent the federal riding of Labrador for the Liberal Party. She is originally from St. Mary’s in Labrador.
Jones, 51, was first elected to parliament in a by-election in 2013 beating out Conservative incumbent Peter Penashue. She was re-elected in 2015. She has served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and to the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade.
Her challengers in the Oct. 21 election so far is Conservative candidate Larry Flemming and Tyler Colbourne with the Green Party.
“We’re a very northern riding. Although we’re a part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, we consider ourselves the north,” Jones explained. “In the north, we have challenges. It’s the cost of living that is very difficult for a lot of people, a lot of families.”
Jones says as the elected MP, she has helped to bring much needed funding to help Labradorians in areas of infrastructure, transportation, housing as well as mental health and addictions services to address the area’s high death rate by suicide.
“We know there’s a need for treatment facilities in Labrador for addiction and mental health services,” Jones said. “I’m working with Indigenous governments and the health care system to have those issues addressed in the next term.”
“We’ve made a lot of progress with the suicide strategy but we still have a lot of work to do. We’re going to focus our energy to make that happen,” she said.
Jones says she wants to congratulate newcomers Joe and Battiste for coming forward to run in the Oct. 21 federal election.
“Politics today is not what it was years ago,” Jones said. “Social media alone has made it very difficult for people to want to put themselves out there in the public light.”
Her main campaigning advice to Joe and Battiste is to listen to the people they want to represent.
“One of the valuable lessons I’ve learned in political life is that I work for the people who elect me. In order to work for them effectively, it means I have to listen to them,” Jones said.
“So listen at the doors, listen on the street. Listen to what people are telling you and look for ways to help,” she said.
Correction: A previous version of this news story incorrectly identified the NDP and Green Party candidates running in the Sydney-Victoria riding.