Two Indigenous candidates from Atlantic Canada are heading to the House of Commons following Monday’s federal election.
In Nova Scotia, Liberal party candidate Jaime Battiste was elected to represent the riding of Sydney-Victoria. Battiste received 12,536 which was 31 per cent of total ballots cast.
Battiste’s election win marks the first time a Mi’kmaw has been elected as a Member of Parliament.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Liberal incumbent Yvonne Jones was re-elected in the riding of Labrador, receiving 4,821 votes or 42 per cent of the total of ballots cast.
Jones, who is of Inuit descent from the community of St. Mary’s, has represented the Labrador riding since she was first elected in 2013.
Two other Mi’kmaw candidates who ran for the New Democratic Party in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Green Party in New Brunswick lost in their election bids Monday night.
Noel Joe, a Mi’kmaw from Miawpukek First Nation, N.L. who ran for the NDP in the riding of Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame placed third with a total of 4,058 votes or 12 per cent of the total vote cast.
Robert Kryszko, a Mi’kmaw from Pabineau First Nation, N.B., ran for the Green Party in the riding of Acadie-Bathurst. Kryszko placed fourth with a total of 4,271 votes or nine per cent of total votes cast.
“It was such a nail-biter.” – Jaime Battiste
The election race in the riding of Sydney-Victoria was close throughout election night. Battiste’s closest challenger, Conservative candidate Eddie Orrell, took the lead at times as the night progressed.
Battiste was only declared the winner near midnight when all but one of the 196 polls have reported. Battiste narrowly beat Orrell by 1,308 votes.
Battiste, his family, friends and supporters had gathered at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre in Sydney, N.S. to watch the results of the election.
“It was pretty gruelling. It was such a nail-biter,” Battiste said when reached by phone on Tuesday.
“There was the agony of being down and there’s the jubilation of being ahead,” he said.
As for being the first Mi’kmaw being elected to the House of Commons, Battiste described his historic win as a “story of perseverance.”
“Not just for my campaign but for all of Mi’kmaw people out there who have persevered so much to be where they’re at today,” Battiste said.
Battiste’s campaign was struck a blow midway through when a news story by Sun News reported that he had made social media posts that were racist and sexist in 2012. Battiste admitted the news story and others that followed had negatively affected his campaign.
“I had to persevere through it and apologize and reflect a bit about what I’m doing and why I’m doing this,” Battiste explained.
The biggest issues Battiste says he intends to work on as an elected official include health care, the environment and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“A lot of people don’t know this but my father was one of the original drafters of that document,” Battiste said.
Battiste’s father is James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson who is a research fellow at the University of Saskatchewan’s law school.
In the meantime, Battiste said he has to make arrangements to transition from his current job as Treaty Education lead with the Province of Nova Scotia to his new role as an elected official.
Battiste said he is scheduled to travel to Ottawa in early November for orientation as a newly elected Member of Parliament.