Indigenous Electoral Services Review at Elections Canada
As the country journeys toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, Elections Canada has an important and defined role to play: make sure that federal elections are inclusive and accessible for Indigenous electors who wish to participate. That is a top priority for Elections Canada. While we have implemented a variety of outreach programs, products and services for Indigenous electors and youth, more needs to be done.
The agency recognizes that many Indigenous electors still face barriers to electoral participation. During the 44th general election, a breakdown in services and communication with some communities in the Kenora riding showed that a more robust and ongoing engagement is needed with First Nations communities nationwide. After the election, the Chief Electoral Officer asked that Elections Canada review how the agency engages with and delivers public education and election services to Indigenous communities.
This two-year review, which will be informed and guided by First Nations, Inuit and Métis voices and experts, is now under way and is focused on three core areas of work:
- Building capacity to establish and maintain relationships with Indigenous peoples;
- Continually refining election services based on feedback to meet the needs and perspectives of Indigenous peoples; and
- Being more inclusive at headquarters and in field operations by increasing Indigenous representation, improving the cultural competency of the agency's workforce, and increasing procurement with Indigenous suppliers.
A new Director of Indigenous Reconciliation and Inclusion, supported by a small team of Indigenous employees and people knowledgeable in Indigenous issues are leading the review.
It will take the agency time to make steps toward reconciliation. While some work will be introduced on a two- to five-year horizon, the agency is currently working on plans to offer flexible advance polls in remote and isolated communities. Elections Canada has also recently launched education pilot program in Northwestern Ontario.
For the education program, we have hired local Indigenous staff, who specialize in community and school-based education, to work with Indigenous organizations, communities, students and educators. This team will co-develop workshops and other educational resources on electoral participation with Indigenous peoples, with the goal of inspiring youth and other first time voters to get involved in the electoral process.
Further, we have begun a series of listening sessions with Indigenous organizations to be completed in the fall of 2023. We are also sending out a survey to hear from Indigenous peoples what is working well, where we can improve, and identify areas where we can work together to enhance their experiences in electoral democracy. If you or your organization would like to participate in the survey, a listening session or simply provide feedback, please reach out to us at IES-SEA@elections.ca.
A second round of engagement sessions will be held later in 2023 to validate what we heard. It will also inform our planned services in an election held after spring 2024 and our approach to establishing and maintaining relationships with Indigenous peoples in the longer term.
The review team will also be looking to try different approaches for working with Indigenous peoples in the short-term and for early indicators of success to inform its final recommendations.
These recommendations (expected in spring 2024) will focus on changes in how we work with Indigenous peoples to reduce or eliminate barriers for Indigenous community members who wish to participate in Canada's electoral process.