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First Nations reps say they hope for change with record number of aboriginal MPs

By Megan Pounder [1]

BELLEVILLE – Parliament Hill [2] will have a record number of aboriginal MPs when the new Liberal government takes over in November.

Ten aboriginal MPs were elected on Oct. 19 – three more than the seven who sat in the House of Commons after the 2011 election.

Eight of the 10 MPs are Liberal, while the remaining two represent the New Democratic Party.

Donald Maracle, chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte [3], said he’s happy to see more native people elected.

Paul Latchford [4]

Paul Latchford, the aboriginal-services manager at Loyalist College, says he hopes to see positive changes in the House of Commons because of the record number of First Nations MPs. Photo by Megan Pounder, QNet News

Loyalist College’s aboriginal-services manager, Paul Latchford, also called the change a positive one.

Aboriginal voting was up 270 per cent in some areas; some places even ran out of ballots.

Maracle said he thinks the need for change is what caused so many First Nations people to vote: “I think there’s been a strong aboriginal movement, from young people in particular, to have positive change occur.”

Latchford said an increased aboriginal presence in the Commons will give First Nations people more of a voice in government.

“The (aboriginal) population is growing strong, so I think there needs to be representation. So that’s what we’re seeing; we’re seeing representation from the aboriginal groups,” he said.

“I think it’s reflective of what society is saying, too.”

Another benefit will be greater awareness of aboriginal issues such as health and welfare, he said.

He said he hopes that the new MPs “will bring an awareness of not only the challenges their community has, but some of the resources, some of the opportunity to fill the gaps in Canadian society.”

Both Maracle and Latchford said the environment and the water-quality problems on many First Nations reserves are issues they would like to see addressed.

Maracle said he expects the new government’s next budget to include “provisions for infrastructure projects, including the extension of water lines and building water-treatment plants for First Nations communities that have been on boil-water advisories for some time now.”