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Mapping the Legal Consciousness of First Nations Voters: Understanding Voting Rights Mobilization

The Disenfranchised Voter

For some First Nations persons, especially those who gained the right to vote in federal elections under the 1960 Canada Elections Act, having the right to vote has not significantly affected parliamentary representation nor has it impacted public policy in the area of Indian affairs. From this perspective, exercising the right to vote in federal elections is either futile or a form of complicity. The futility stems from the claim that voting by First Nations peoples has no real impact on the outcome of federal elections. Only two federal electoral districts have a majority of First Nations electors, and less than a dozen First Nations candidates have been elected to Parliament. The complicity arises because it is often argued that as a matter of fairness, if someone participates in an electoral process by voting, that person is bound to accept the legitimacy of the outcome.

As with the enfranchised voter, there is a compelling case for the disenfranchised Indian voter not to participate in federal elections, although for quite different reasons. The right to vote for the disenfranchised Indian voter has a particular meaning that discourages that individual from mobilizing that right. That meaning is not one that makes reference to the historical legacy of the Indian Act but rather one that makes a prognosis about voting today and what that will mean in the future.