Urban aboriginals a key issue, Alberni voter says

  • Apr. 28, 2011 7:00 p.m.
Voter Profile - Wally Samuel.

Voter Profile - Wally Samuel.

This federal election, the Alberni Valley News  sought out typical Valley citizens, asked them a little about themselves and their politics, delved into the key issue(s) for them personally, and then took that issue to the candidates for a direct response. We’ll be posting these features online, at www.albernivalleynews.com, and we invite both other voters and candidates themselves to join the conversation through our Disqus online commenting feature.

More than 60 per per cent of aboriginal people from tribes in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding live off reserve, and it’s time their voices were heard, says  resident Wally Samuel.

Samuel, 61, has lived in Port Alberni since 1966, votes in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding, and volunteers with the Port Alberni Friendship Centre.

He and his wife Donna have five adult children, 14 grand children and two great grandchildren.

Samuel has voted NDP in past federal elections and will likely do so in this one.

“Going by the leaders of the parties I have to say I like Jack Layton,” Samuel said.

“I don’t trust either Stephen Harper of Michael Ignatieff.”

Originally from Ahousaht—one of 14 reserves that dot the West Coast—Samuel hasn’t lived there since 1966. He was too busy working to pay attention to politics, but he got involved in his early 30’s when he started working with the friendship centre.

“Political policies affected the people we served, especially the poor and disadvantaged,” Samuel said. “I made a point to watch who was running for office.”

First Nations receive program and service funding from Indian and Northern Affairs on  a per capita basis. But it’s a catch-22. While funding goes to the First Nations, most of their members don’t live in the nations’  traditional lands.

The ensuing imbalance leaves off-reserve people at a disadvantage. “Sixty per cent of aboriginal people live away from home in cities and don’t benefit from on reserve funding,” Samuel said. “I appreciate the situation reserves are in, but the reality is that most Indian people live in cities, and their issues are just as important.”

Wally’s question to the candidates:

How will you improve program and service delivery for the 60 per cent of Aboriginal People who now live off-reserve and in cities?

Myron Jespersen, Green Party:

An immediate thing that we can do is make sure that our program offices are “First Nations friendly”; that they feel culturally familiar and safe for First Nations clients. We also call for a quick settlement and implementation of outstanding treaties and land claims.

Zeni Martmann, NDP:

New Democrats will work with organizations on the ground in cities and communities to ensure that the life chances and opportunities of aboriginal peoples off reserve match those of the people in their neighbourhoods. We will increase funding to these organizations.

James Lunney, Conservative:

Did not return a response.

Renee Miller, Liberal:

Did not return response.