Federal elections | Election Canada apologizes to Aboriginal communities unable to vote

(Ottawa) Elections Canada has apologized to citizens of three Indigenous communities in Ontario who were denied the right to vote in the last elections in September due to poor communication.

Posted at 2:16 pm

Mary Wolf
Canadian Press

An investigation by the agency found that polling stations in communities that could only be reached by air on a Kenora ride had been canceled before Election Day. However, many voters were not informed of these changes and showed up at the local polling station on September 20 for nothing.

Elections Canada released a report Monday on why Indigenous voters in the communities of Cat Lake, Poplar Hill, and Pekanjikum were disadvantaged.

The report reveals that the local return officer replaced the September 20 ballot with a day of pre-voting, after learning of a conflict with hunting season and cultural activities in these three communities. But this change was not clearly communicated to voters.

The report says last-minute efforts to conduct an on-site pre-voting were well-intentioned, but poorly executed.

Residents of these three communities could have previously voted in Sioux Lookout or Red Lake, but access to these locations was only available by air.

Elections Canada says it needs to review the way it plans and delivers public and electoral education services in First Nations communities.

The report also notes that Elections Canada headquarters learned from the media on polling day that polling stations had closed in these three remote communities. As a result, no action can be taken to inform voters of the change, for example through an online voter information service.

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The report highlights that Indigenous voters face unique obstacles to participating in federal elections, particularly in remote communities where providing election services may be more difficult.

The Kenora ride is home to 44 First Nations communities, and during the recent federal elections, evacuations due to wildfires made it difficult to reach some voters. In Grassy Narrows, the polling station opened late; In Wapuskang, voter information cards for five citizens showed the polling station to be wrong.

Elections Canada said the report’s findings will improve the way it provides election services to remote First Nations communities.

For his part, NDP MP Blake Degarla said the lack of polling stations in the reservations and First Nations communities during the elections is “really appalling”.

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