Voting in Provincial and Federal Elections can be intimidating for a few reasons.
The first is that the process to vote is so formal from an outside perspective that prospective voters feel “Why bother? I’m just going to be harassed, and for what?” There is good reason for this reaction, as people have been harassed and unfairly judged for participating in these elections in the past.
The second reason is that the life of provincial and federal politicians seems far removed from everyday First Nation reserve life. Government is like a distant brewing thunderstorm that could strike at any time. You know it’s there and you watch from the corner of your eye. It is viewed with apprehension and caution because it has attacked you unexpectedly. It has tried to eliminate you and is viewed with a great deal of suspicion as a result.
Related to this is the pointed question: “What has my MP or MLA done for me, us or our community lately?” Most MPs and MLAs have very little knowledge of our communities and fall prey to stereotyping views of our communities and our people.
So, why would one bother to vote in a system that seemingly does nothing for them? Ask any current or past sitting Indigenous MP or MLA if they have experienced this reaction and they will likely tell you they have. (They are also usually the “Indian Expert” in their caucus or party.)
Third, Canada, including the provinces, has never really been serious about getting the Indigenous vote out in any real way. While we got the right to vote in 1960, Canada never bothered to ensure that polling stations, enumerations and other steps were taken to facilitate proactive participation in these elections.
It has really only been in the last decade or so we have seen an increase. The sad thing about this is that some political parties, pundits and supposed experts question the legitimacy of Indigenous voting and view it with suspicion.