Indigenous issues largely absent from 2019 election - 2019-10-18
The unofficial slogan for the 2015 Liberal election campaign was "there is no relationship more important to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples." It was a mantra shared repeatedly by Justin Trudeau pre- and post-election and stood in stark contrast to former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper's adversarial relationship with First Nations. In fact, it was Trudeau's election promise to make Indigenous issues a political priority, together with his commitment to a nation-to-nation relationship grounded in respect for Indigenous rights, that helped his party win the Indigenous vote.
While not all Indigenous people voted for the Liberals, record numbers of them voted -- largely to help the Liberals unseat the Conservatives. Fast-forward to this election and Trudeau started his campaign with a speech that focused on the middle class and ignored Indigenous peoples entirely. Indigenous issues then seemed to slowly disappear.
In addition to not mentioning Indigenous peoples in his first campaign speech, Trudeau also didn't show up for the first leaders' debate hosted by Maclean's and Citytv, which is, in essence also failing to show up on Indigenous issues. While the Maclean's debate started out well, with strong interventions from Elizabeth May of the Green party, the void left by Trudeau's absence allowed the leader of the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer, to turn every question on Indigenous issues into a discussion on forcing approval of natural resource projects regardless of First Nation opposition. At one point, he spoke against Indigenous groups "holding hostage" resource projects -- the same kind of aggressive stereotypes used by the former Harper government that paint First Nations as dangerous. While both May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called him on this disrespectful language, Trudeau was missing in action and not there to provide the kind of response Canadians expect of a leader who claimed to be committed to respectful nation-to-nation relations with Indigenous peoples.