Earlier this March, the Liberal Party of Canada held their biennial convention in Ottawa. Party members and commissions from all over the country attended and took the opportunity to make their voices heard. Aside from giving party members an opportunity to socialize, the convention gave the Liberal Party the chance to re-evaluate its official policies and consider new ways to better serve Canadians.
Several policy resolutions were made by the Liberals during their 4 day convention, including the promise to further incorporate Aboriginal people into the government system. The Liberal Party has attempted to address the interests of these minority citizens since 1990, with the formation of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission (APC). To date, theirs is the only political party with any formal representation of this country’s native populace.
During the convention, members of the APC expressed their concerns about the disproportionate representation their people have in the government. Aboriginals make up 4.4% of Canada’s population, and would have 14 representatives in the House of Commons, as well as 5 senators, if they were proportionately represented. Since gaining the right to vote in 1960, Aboriginal people have struggled to become more self-governing.
In 1999, the Inuit living in what was once the Northwest Territories took a giant leap forward in achieving that autonomy with the creation of Nunavut. The recently added territory is a realm governed by the Inuit living within its borders; a place where Inuit culture can be preserved by the very people it encompasses.
The updated Liberal policy seeks similar results with other Aboriginal groups within Canada – such as the First Nations, Non-Status and Métis people. According to the latest Plenary Report released after the Liberal convention, the Liberal Party will “…encourage the Government of Canada to conduct a study, through Elections Canada, to identify the legislative requirements for the installation of Aboriginal people as members of Parliament and as senators on an inclusive and proportional basis…”. The party also promotes the appointment of five more Aboriginal senators before the next federal election.
As a means to further promote self-governance among Aboriginal communities, the Liberals also resolved to include more Aboriginal youths in the programs that affect their areas. Party members, as well as native people themselves, feel that young people should be more involved in the processes that influence their daily and future lives. Liberals state that they support aboriginal youth leadership and empowerment.
With the association of such a powerful political entity as the Liberal Party, it is likely that every Aboriginal group within Canada will be provided with the adequate funds and freedoms necessary to establish themselves as strong and self-governing societies. The decisions made during this past Liberal convention will surely help to create an Aboriginal population with more autonomy, better health care, and improved economic growth and sustainability. As this land’s oldest members, the Aboriginal communities certainly deserve the opportunity to govern their own affairs.
2005 Biennial Convention – Aboriginal Workshop – http://www.liberal.ca/bcpolicyres_e.aspx?subid=2#68
Plenary Report of the Liberal Party of Canada http://www.liberal.ca/PDF/Plenary%20Report%20English.pdf
CBC Archives – The Creation of Nunavut – http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-73-108/politics_economy/nunavut/
Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission – http://www.liberal.ca/commissions/apc/welcome/
CBC Archives – Aboriginal Rights to Vote – http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-73-1450-9556/politics_economy/voting_rights/clip4