Indigenous issues, including themes of reconciliation, climate change and opportunities fo the next generation of Ktunaxa youth were featured topics at an election debate on Monday night in Cranbrook.
Hosted inside the gymnasium of the Ktunaxa Nation Council building, candidates including Wayne Stetski (NDP), Rob Morrison (Conservative Party), Robin Goldsbury (Liberal Party), Abra Brynne (Green Party), and Rick Stewart (People’s Party) got the opportunity to outline their respective party policy in the context of indigenous issues.
The event was moderated by Donald Sam, the Director of Traditional Knowledge and Language for the Ktunaxa Nation Council, and organized by Dr. Joyce Green and Rosemary Phillips.
Each candidate had the opportunity to introduce themselves with an opening statement, before Sam asked two prepared questions with each candidate having three minutes to respond.
Those first two questions sought party positions on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the plan to harmonize it with Canadian legislation. The second question focused on party action plans to tackle climate change and the principles of free, prior and informed consent for land use decisions in traditional Indigenous territories.
The Liberal, Green and NDP candidates all noted their commitment to aligning with the UNDRIP language, while the Conservative and People’s Party candidates emphasized the importance of building trust through partnerships with Indigenous Peoples for job creation and economic growth.
All candidates noted a commitment to environmental stewardship, while four of the five candidates outlined concerns and plans to tackle climate change. Stewart argued that the science was not settled on carbon dioxide as a cause for climate change and railed against putting the economy at risk.
From there, the forum opened up to an audience Q&A style format, with questions on what parties will do to support the logging industry from someone trying to start a logging company, nation-building within the context of moving forward with Indigenous Peoples.
Sophie Pierre, a decorated Ktunaxa leader, noted she’s lived through various federal parties in government and asked the candidates what their plans are to ensure Indigenous youth have access to health care and education now and into the future.
One question directly challenged Morrison and a decision from Senate Conservatives, who let a bill die on the floor after having passed the House of Commons that would have harmonized Canadian law with UNDRIP recommendations and principles.
After the open Q&A session, each candidate was given a few minutes for closing remarks.
Throughout the evening, reconciliation and working hand-in-hand alongside Indigenous Peoples was a universal theme from all candidates, while differences and emphasis shifted from party to party on topics such as resource management, job creation and utilizing traditional Indigenous knowledge.
Sam concluded the evening’s debate, thanking the candidates for participating, but also noted that preserving Indigenous language wasn’t mentioned at all.