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More Indigenous candidates are running on Vancouver Island than ever before
This federal election will see more Indigenous candidates on Vancouver Island than ever before.
Four aboriginal candidates are vying for MP positions across the island.
Bob Chamberlin is running for the NDP in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Michelle Corfield is the Liberal candidate in the same riding. Meanwhile, Lydia Hwitsum is running for the Green Party in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford and Racelle Kooy is the Green Party candidate in Victoria.
The growth of Indigenous voices in local politics is part of a broader trend across the country.
This election, there are 62 indigenous candidates running across the country – more than ever before. That figure is up from 2015 when there were 54.
Rob Gillezeau is a professor at the University of Victoria (UVic). His academic focus is indigenous economics. He says that in the last election there was a surge of Indigenous voters supporting Trudeau's Liberals. This time that support may shift.
"In 2015 we saw a lot of the vote flock to the Liberals and Justin Trudeau and just from recent polling from Environomics, we've seen that drop off massively," said Gillezeau. "So, engagement is remaining high, but to some extent it's out of disappointment with the government and that has been a real change from 2015."
Michelle Corfield notes that even the right to vote is a relatively recent evolution of laws.
"My mum did not get to vote until 1960," said Corfield. "So we're only still 50 years out of that. We're still pretty fresh."
Corfield and the other island candidates expressed their gratitude to their ancestors, who they say paved the way for them.
"That we're doing it, that we're standing up, that we found our place," Corfield said. "That the work that they did so many years ago standing up for us because we were under such horrible legislation, meant something."
Bob Chamberlin says he hopes more Indigenous candidates will be encouraged to run and thinks that aboriginal leaders can play a meaningful role in encouraging the next generation to become involved in politics.
"We need articulate leaders to carry on and build on the work that our generation is doing now."
Meanwhile, Lydia Hwitsum – who has a law degree from UVic and is a former elected Chief of Cowichan tribes – says changing laws and attitudes have helped her and others feel comfortable running for political office.
"There wasn't a sense that that was a welcoming forum for Indigenous people," said Hwitzum.
"We've been prohibited by law. The law changed, I think it's been a developmental process where our people have become more engaged."
Meanwhile, Racelle Kooy says she knows she is a role model for future generations. "I'm very aware that just by running right now I am leading by example, and I'm showing them to be me and go beyond."