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New elections law will hurt aboriginal voting: First Nations

By: The Canadian Press

 | Apr 03, 2014 - 2:20 PM |
The Assembly of First Nations says proposed changes to elections rules will make it harder for aboriginals to vote and are a step backwards. File photo.

The Assembly of First Nations says proposed changes to elections rules will make it harder for aboriginals to vote and are a step backwards. File photo.

OTTAWA - The Assembly of First Nations says proposed changes to elections rules will make it harder for aboriginals to vote and are a step backwards.

Peter Dinsdale, the acting CEO of the assembly, is telling a parliamentary committee that two changes under the Fair Elections Act will set back First Nations participation in future elections.

Dinsdale says his organization has been working with Elections Canada on programs specifically targeted at aboriginal youth, but provisions in the new bill sharply limit the communications role of the elections watchdog.

The AFN is also concerned that an end to vouching for voters with limited identification would disenfranchise many First Nations people, especially those in remote northern communities where street addresses aren't used.

Dinsdale says there is also a large population of young, transient aboriginals who already are the lowest voting demographic in the country and putting more hurdles in their path to the ballot box is clearly counterproductive.

He says the reasons for low voter engagement among First Nations are complex while noting that prior to 1960 status Indians were not permitted to vote in Canada, or if they did, they lost the right to live on their home reserves.

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