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The federal election can change the lives of Indigenous peoples

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With voting in our federal election beginning at 7:00 a.m., we can use these last few hours to reflect on what issues have been important to us along the campaign trail.

It is during elections that I am often reminded of the sad legacy of broken promises -- all three of the major Canadian parties (as I live in Ontario, I am setting the Bloc aside since I cannot vote for them) have done it.

And while not as ugly as electoral attack ads, it does speak to, at best, an overconfidence in a political party, and at worse, an attempt to use common deceit or an electoral ruse de guerre to confuse the issue or secure votes.

In late 1989, for example, all federal parties unanimously supported a resolution to end child poverty within Canadian borders by the year 2000 -- hence the name Campaign 2000.  

Sadly, according to Campaign 2000, over 1.3 million children still live in poverty in Canada today, with a staggering 40 per cent of Indigenous children living in poverty.

A federal election has the ability to change the lives of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-status Aboriginal people (from now on, simply referred to as First Nation or Indigenous) much more profoundly than provincial politics since these communities fall under federal jurisdiction.

That said, ours is a sad history where members of Indigenous communities across Canada weren't even allowed to vote in Canada until the 1960s.

And acting as pathfinders, Indigenous community leaders along with Assembly of First Nations staff are helping to assist any Indigenous community member who wishes to vote to do so while also honouring those communities that do not vote as they already represent their suffrage in semi-autonomous ways.

According to data from 2011, collected by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Indigenous-identified individuals make up four per cent of the country's population. The median age of the Aboriginal population is 28 years compared with 41 years for non-Aboriginals. 

Indigenous communities struggled with some very basic life events -- again with data collected in 2011 by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada -- such as education and employment.

For example, the overall working-age Aboriginal population lags behind in educational attainment with 29 per cent having less than high school compared with 12 per cent for non-Aboriginal individuals of the same age.

The unemployment rate for the working-age Aboriginal population is more than twice the rate for other Canadians of the same age (13 per cent versus six per cent).

With federal polling stations opening up at 7:00 a.m. on October 19, 2015, the three major parties have stratified themselves across a few major issues.

For example, regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and findings which were released in June of this year, Harper's party has pledged to review the 94 official recommendations while the Liberals and the NDP are more action orientated and are willing to implement all the recommendations.

Related to this is the very real fear that Indigenous women live with, that they might be the next one to go missing or be disappeared, only the Liberals and the NDP would be willing to call for a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

The Conservatives -- as they have stated to the media in the past -- would not.

All three major parties on paper pledge to help stimulate and protect opportunities for growth in the educational and labour fields.

The Conservatives under Stephen Harper promise, "to spend $200 million to improve First Nations education and outcomes in schools and $30.3 million to expand a plan that helps communities create their own land management laws to improve economic development on reserve lands."

The Liberals under Justin Trudeau promise, "to provide stable, predictable funding for First Nations education to close the 'unacceptable gap' in learning outcomes for First Nations students."

The NDP under Thomas Mulcair promise, "to reduce poverty, improve educational outcomes and increase opportunities for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities across Canada."

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Perry Bellegarde, among other chiefs and Indigenous leaders, is urging all First Nation community members to therefore vote. The AFN focus is on spreading awareness and political literacy.

There are 51 ridings where First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities can cast the deciding vote.

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