The call for a First Nations political party in Saskatchewan continues after last month’s provincial election.
During the campaign, Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Wallace Fox announced it was time to consider building a First Nations party to look at issues such as resource revenue sharing.
The Saskatchewan Party won 49 seats in the election, dropping the opposition New Democratic Party to nine seats.
Fox and his supporters believe there are at least 11 constituencies in the province that could be won by such a party if the majority of Aboriginal people supported it. They hope to have candidates running under the First Nations banner next election.
Fox reiterated this in a recent news release after the NDP said it would no longer look at resource revenue sharing – something Fox said indicated weak leadership and inconsistencies in platform policies.
“This is another wake up call to First Nations and others who have a vested interest in seeing a new political party in Saskatchewan, one that can focus on economic development and growth, yet balance Crown obligations to its citizens,” said Fox.
The NDP has since indicated resource revenue sharing is still part of its platform.
Fox said he has received tremendous support for a First Nations party from across the country and including non-Aboriginal people.
“Every day resources are pulled from our traditional territories with very little or nothing coming back to First Nations,” said Fox, noting many First Nations people continue to live in poverty. “We are citizens of Saskatchewan, our territories are here and we are not leaving, in fact we are growing. It only makes sense that we have some say in the political arena of this province.”
Larry Cachene, the recently re-elected chief of Yellow Quill First Nation, agreed with Fox.
“It’s time for First Nations to actually sit there and represent First Nations communities in protecting our rights, our Treaty Rights, provincially,” he said. “All the time there’s legislation that comes out that impacts our treaties in some way, so we really need to have a seat at that table to talk about our concerns so that when legislation’s being developed, we are part of the development.”
Cachene noted it does help to have people like Jennifer Campeau, a member of the Yellow Quill First Nation, elected to the Legislature. She won her seat in Saskatoon Fairview and is the first First Nations woman elected to the Saskatchewan Party.
“I know it’s probably a start, but it’s not enough. I think we have to have our own independent party with its own platform,” said Cachene, who noted someone like Campeau has to follow her party’s platform.
Campeau said her victory means a lot to her but also to First Nations people in the province.
“The fact that I am a First Nations female is significant,” she said. “The fact that I am a First Nations female in the governing party is significant. I think the Leg is going to be changed, and I think it will open up new avenues for others to follow.”
Three Aboriginal candidates were elected in the Saskatchewan Party: Métis businessman Roger Parent in Saskatoon-Meewasin, and Métis union leader Greg Lawrence in Moose Jaw Wakamow.
Premier Brad Wall is thrilled with those victories.
“I have said publicly and privately to First Nations leaders, to Métis leaders: the Legislature will be more effective, the government will be more effective, if there’s a First Nations or Aboriginal or Métis voice in the Legislature,” said Wall, “specifically in the government caucus, whoever the government happens to be, and maybe in the cabinet.”