Nuu-chah-nulth leaders reflect on the election outcome – what does it mean for us?

Denise Titian, October 22, 2019

Gord Johns speaks at the Council of Ha'wiih Forum on Fisheries, next to Ahousaht's lead negotiator Cliff Atleo and Uu-a-thluk program manager Eric Angel. (Irine Polyzogopoulos photo)

The election is over, and although little has changed with federal party representation on Vancouver Island, the Conservatives under Andrew Scheer surged ahead in the polls, while under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the re-elected Liberal Party lost majority power.

The Liberals won a minority government, meaning they don’t have enough votes in Parliament to pass bills on their own. Political pundits speculate that this will force Trudeau to work with elected NDP representatives, like the three who were elected in Nuu-chah-nulth territories on Oct. 21.

There are three political ridings that overlap Nuu-chah-nulth territories. On the north island, Rachel Blaney of the NDP will continue to represent the Nuu-chah-nulth nations of Kyuquot, Ehattesaht, Nuchatlaht, and Mowachaht/Muchalaht.

For the central part of Nuu-chah-nulth territories, Gord John of the NDP took nearly half the votes. He will continue to represent Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Tseshaht, Hupacasath, Ucluelet, Uchucklesaht, Toquaht and Huu-ay-aht for another four years.

In the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding lies Ditidaht and Pacheedaht. Incumbent Alistair MacGregor of the NDP was also re-elected.

Blaney was quoted as saying she is elated by the party’s chance to hold the balance of power in a minority government.

Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. said that they invited the candidates running for election in the Courtenay-Alberni riding to Anacla to hear their concerns. NDP candidate Gord Johns accepted an invitation to tour the territories and to hear the people.

“We shared our three top priorities with him,” said Dennis. One: upgrade the road to Bamfield. Two: Press for the implementation of the ‘Me Too’ clause in the Maa-nulth Treaty (Ahousaht Fisheries court case). Three: Housing.

“We asked him to champion Huu-ay-aht causes if he gets back into office,” continued Dennis, adding that he is encouraged and happy that Johns won the riding. “They (the elected NDP MPs) have an opportunity to work together (with the re-elected Liberal government) and advance reconciliation.”

Huu-ay-aht sent letters outlining the same issues to the other candidates in the
Courtenay-Alberni riding. According to Dennis, the Conservative candidate, Byron Horner, did not respond. However, the other parties responded in a positive way, according to Dennis.

Ditidaht elected Chief Brian Tate is relieved that the Ditidaht/Pacheedaht treaty negotiations can continue without any foreseeable delays.

“The last change of government [four years ago when the Conservatives lost to the Liberals] the changeover delayed our treaty negotiations by a year,” he noted. With the Liberals still in power, Tate thinks treaty will continue moving.

Tate says most of his people living in Ditidaht territories voted NDP.

“The NDP candidate Alistair MacGregor won, so our people got what they wanted,” he added.

Ahousaht elected Chief Greg Louie is also pleased that Gord Johns won the riding.

“Our region is strong NDP and Ahousaht has always had a good relationship with Gord,” Louie told Ha-Shilth-Sa.

He offers his congratulations to Johns, saying he appreciates that he maintains good communication with Ahousaht.

“Before he goes to Ottawa he will call and ask if we need him to speak on our issues in the House,” said Louie. He went to say that Johns has a proven track record of raising Nuu-chah-nulth issues including fisheries concerns, climate change, and he presses for progress in Ahousaht specific claims to land in Ahousaht territories.

Louie says housing issues need to be addressed in Ottawa, as well as help for the most vulnerable – those living on social assistance in isolated communities.

“We look forward to improvement, to moving forward. Hopefully the Liberals will keep their promises about reconciliation,” said Louie.

NTC President Judith Sayers says she is happy that Conservative Andrew Scheer didn’t get in as Prime Minister.

“I think this is the best possible situation; with Trudeau not getting a majority he is going to have to build alliances with one of the other parties,” she said.

She noted that Trudeau’s climate change plan is inadequate and won’t reduce greenhouse gasses quickly enough to mitigate climate change. Sayers pointed out that Trudeau made only one reference to Canada’s Indigenous peoples in his acceptance speech.

“I am concerned about the lack of Indigenous issues mentioned in his speech; what about reconciliation? Are we not his priority anymore?” she asked.

Prior to the election the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that First Nations children in on-reserve child welfare care were being discriminated against. The tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 to each child. Payments are to go to those who were apprehended or taken from their homes on reserve, no matter what the reason.

The ruling covers all children in the care of the on-reserve child welfare system at any point from Jan.1, 2006 to a date to be determined by the tribunal. 

“He wants to appeal that,” said Sayers of Prime Minister Trudeau.

Sayers went on to say that Gord Johns works tirelessly for the local First Nations and she is pleased that he won with such a large percentage of votes.

The Council of Ha’wiih gave Gord Johns a name at the last Forum on Fisheries. Sayers explained this name is ciqh=sii, which means speaker of the Ha’wiih (hereditary Chiefs). With the possible scenario of a Liberal minority government having to work with the NDP, things could improve on the west coast.

“It’s a new day, a new beginning,” said Sayers.