Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Aboriginal Voting Patterns and Preference in Manitoba

This is a video and interview concerning the research of Dr Christoper Adams, Rector of St-Paul's College at the University of Manitoba. He discusses his research into Aboriginal voting patterns and preferences in Manitoba. Dr Adams once worked for Probe Research and was able to investigate the ways that Aboriginal peoples vote in Manitoba. The paper he wrote is to be published in a book Understanding 2011: The Manitoba Election edited by University of Manitoba political scientists Andrea Rounce and Jared Wesley. This is a two part video.

Christoper indicates that the Aboriginal population is often not used as a force within politics because they are very often found in safe seats, but when they are in swing seats political parties could use them for winning and forming government. We also discussed the idea that Canadian Aboriginal peoples only just received the right to vote in 1960 and really could exercise that right in the 1962 federal election. So while 75% of Aboriginal people indicate they have a voting preference, much like the general population they are less likely to vote. The Idle No More movement though has propelled them to a higher level of political participation, because by marching and taking an active role in protests Indigenous peoples are moving beyond the simple act of voting to actually influencing larger events and debates within society. They have moved beyond a passive role to that of an active participants in democracy.

 Part I

Part II

Another paper by Dr Adams on Aboriginal voting 

Learn Learn more (radio show version)


  1. I was shocked when reading that Aboriginal people did not receive the right to vote until 1960. It seems that we always focus on the fact that women received the right to vote in 1918 and that after that point universal suffrage existed for everyone. But it wasn’t until 1960 that the “federal government first allowed First Nations people living on reserves to vote at the federal level without having to give up their status under the Indian Act” ( It is truly shameful to think that the Canadian people oppressed the First Nations people for so long especially considering the fact that First Nations people had fought for Canada during World War II.

    The interview with Dr. Christopher Adams was truly engaging and I was very interested in this topic! I minored in political studies and politics is a great passion of mine. The interview was regarding the 2011 election in Manitoba and voting patterns in the Aboriginal community. According to Dr. Adams research three quarters of First Nations people have a party preference. This figure is basically the same for non-Aboriginal people. What is interesting is that First Nations people in Manitoba overwhelmingly support the New Democratic Party (NDP). Dr. Adams did point out however that some First Nations groups such as the Metis do not support the NDP to the same extent as First Nations people as a whole.

    Dr. Adams also stated that the Aboriginal community in Canada has a much lower voter turnout rate when compared to the rest of Canadians. According to Elections Canada “the Aboriginal participation rate in the 2000 federal election was 48 percent. This is 16 points below the rate for the Canadian population as a whole” ( This doesn’t surprise me given the marginalization of First Nations people and how the government of Canada has historically treated this demographic. But Elections Canada also points out that in some cases First Nations people have greater turnout than that of other Canadians, but that it all depends on the province and the individual communities.

    I do find it troubling that Aboriginal voter participation is lower than that of the rest of Canadians. But it is also very troubling that voter participation in Canada has declined steadily over the past several decades. The last time that there was a voter turnout over 75% in Canada was in the 1988 federal election. That was over 25 years ago. The 2008 Federal Election had the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history with only 58.8% of eligible voters participating ( Cleary something needs to change to ensure that voter turnout increases in every demographic so that our elections are truly democratic and reflective of the will of Canadians. And given that the Aboriginal community has such a large youth population it is imperative that we make politics in Canada seem relevant and positive, and that the cynicism and mistrust of government is something that our children do not feel. Otherwise it is very possible that voter participation, regardless of ethnicity, will continue to decrease.

  2. The lower engagement of aboriginal peoples in politics could owe itself to a number of issues; a number were mentioned in the interview with Dr. Adams. It should be noted that this segment of our population is a relatively new voting populace; one still cementing its role in the landscape of Canadian society. There is that pressure to affect meaningful change in their ridings and, as Dr. Adams mentioned, there is an almost union-like setup for aboriginal voting. Band leaders commonly take on the responsibility of pushing for voter involvement in the community; this has the result of solidifying the vote and creating ‘safe seats.’ The unfortunate consequence of this, as well as other influences, is an increased frequency of voter apathy in the aboriginal populace. This is an obvious flaw with the system as it has the tendency of stifling opposing votes.

    I think the reason that the idle-no-more movement has seen so much support from the aboriginal community is that it is offering a relevant voice for the populace. They are creating a message across ridings where their needs are being presented; and political parties need to take notice. According to Berdahl et al., 2011, “…research has shown that individual contact can increase voter turnout rates, and face‐to‐face contact through personal canvassing helps to mobilize potential voters (Gerber and Green, 2000).” (p. 5) The idle-no-more movement definitely has these traits, and could have some major implications for increasing involvement in the aboriginal community.

    Any great political movement starts with core values, finding a way to involve the community through programs and events are one way to get things started. The key is developing a clear message that states what you want to do and how you are going to do it; this is the core teaching of politics in my opinion. How you make this valid for everyone involved is something that requires a lot of effort and inclusion. I feel that Aboriginals are beginning to find their voice and the next few years should be interesting to witness.

    Berdahl, L., Adams, C., Poelzer, G. (2011) First Nations Candidacy and On‐Reserve Voting in Manitoba: A Research Note. Retrieved February 25th from

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