Manitoba Indigenous leaders endorse Liberal candidate at NDP event

Two Indigenous leaders in Manitoba endorsed a Liberal candidate during an NDP campaign event with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh standing behind them.

The potentially awkward moment took place on Aug. 26, when Singh and two local candidates seeking re-election met with Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee for a campaign event in Winnipeg.

During the event, both Dumas and Settee endorsed Liberal candidate Shirley Robinson for the northern Manitoba riding of Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, a seat that has been held by NDP incumbent Niki Ashton since 2008, noting that Robinson is Indigenous.

“We will always advance our First Nations candidates on that level of being an elected official for the past two decades. I think that it's time for a fresh start in the north, and I absolutely support, Shirley Robinson in her candidacy,” Dumas said during the campaign event.

Settee also mentioned his support for Robinson.

“We want Indigenous people to get involved in this process, because as I say, we have a vested interest in what happens in Canada,” he said. “Our people are non-partisan but of course we will support our Indigenous people wherever they are.”

In a virtual interview with on Tuesday, Dumas reiterated that the Assembly is non-partisan and his endorsement of Robinson is not about choosing the Liberals over the NDP, but rather endorsing Indigenous candidates for the election and for the region.

“(Robinson is) a candidate for the North and I feel that over the past 15 years, that seat hasn't been as productive as it should have been and I think it's time for a refresh and a renewal,” Dumas said in the interview. “We need strong leaders that will be willing to work with us.”

In a news release on Tuesday, the MKO reiterated its support for Robinson and encouraged all First Nations citizens in the riding to support her.

According to CTV News Winnipeg, 76.3 per cent of people in the Churchill—Keewatinook Aski riding identify as Indigenous.

Robinson, from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, has served as a local band councillor for the past 14 years and is making her first jump into federal politics.

“She has the confidence of the people (and) she certainly has my confidence,” Dumas said. “I encourage everyone out there to take an objective look and actually see that in the North, we need a new way to advocate and move our issues forward.”

Dumas was also critical Ashton, who is not Indigenous, and her apparent inaction in Parliament since 2008, particularly when it came to restoring railway access to Churchill, Man. after record flooding damaged the line in 2017.

“I feel that, unfortunately, Miss Ashton has used that seat for her personal gain and personal benefit,” he said. “Over the past 15 years, we haven't seen any bills that have come down. We haven't seen anything brought forward to that riding.”

The NDP were not immediately available for comment, but Singh has previously stated his support of Ashton. On Twitter, Ashton has been criticizing the Liberals on various Indigenous issues:

2. Out of the 94 TRC recommendations, this govt only implemented 13 of them. In 2015, Trudeau promised that no relationship was more important to the government of Canada than its relationship with First Nations. 6 years later, many of the TRC recommendations are gathering dust.

— Niki Ashton (@nikiashton) August 29, 2021