Justin Trudeau promised to respect indigenous rights and honor treaties after he was elected as Canadian prime minister on Monday October 19, defeating longtime leader Stephen Harper.
“Canadians have spoken,” said Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in his acceptance speech in Montreal. “You want a government with a vision and an agenda for this country that is positive and ambitious and hopeful. My friends, I promise you tonight that I will be that government.”
Indigenous leaders were encouraged by the Liberal Party’s inclusive platform, and the win. They had been exhorting First Nations, Métis and Inuit people to register and vote in hopes of unseating Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“We welcome the new federal government and congratulate Prime Minister Trudeau, the Liberal Party and all members of parliament,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a statement. “First Nations are ready to move. The Liberals put out a vision for real change. The Prime Minister spoke in his victory speech about a renewed nation-to-nation relationship that respects rights and honors Treaties. We are ready to start working now on those terms to close the gap together and build a stronger country for all of us.”
Trudeau’s Liberals swept the polls to form a majority government while the Conservatives formed the official opposition and the NDP trailed behind.
After Trudeau’s win, reports said that Harper, who was prime minister for nine and a half years, would step down as Conservative party leader.
As results rolled in, the Liberals took an early lead, sweeping Atlantic Canada and taking an easy majority across the country.
A number of Conservative strongholds were overtaken by the Liberals, including the New Brunswick riding (district) of former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. Valcourt was in office during the Idle No More movement and several controversial pieces of legislation, including the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.
Indigenous Members of Parliament were also elected in various ridings. Former B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould was elected as a Liberal MP in the new Vancouver Granville riding, and Falcon Ouellette, another Liberal candidate, won in Winnipeg Centre.
At the polls, indigenous voter participation appeared to reach new levels.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said some bands were shutting down band offices and schools and bussing band members to polling stations.
“They’re getting organized,” he told CBC News. “There’s been a groundswell of excitement because people are saying that the status quo isn’t acceptable.”
At least six polling stations in First Nations in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta ran out of ballots in the late afternoon and early evening Monday, APTN News reported, but they were replenished soon after.