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Nova Scotia

Mi’kmaw Nova Scotia MP says updated electoral map kicks him out of his own riding

A Mi’kmaw MP said Tuesday that proposed changes to the boundaries of federal riding in Nova Scotia would remove two Indigenous communities from the area he represents, including his home of the Eskasoni First Nation.

The proposed Sydney-Victoria change was implemented without consulting Indigenous voters, said Jaime Battiste, who lives on the reserve. He said that does nothing to promote inclusion in politics.

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“We see that these borders are currently working to give the Mi’kmaw people votes where they never had before for the first time in our history,” Battiste said in an interview, referring to the existing electoral map.

“And the fact that they’re changing things means a lot to me that I’m trying to reconstruct that glass ceiling that I broke through when I was elected.”

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An independent commission tasked with redefining the boundaries had focused on making Nova Scotia’s 11 equestrian ranches more similar in terms of population size, but critics say their method ignored Indigenous and racial groups and the province’s history take care.

The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act states that about 88,000 people should live in each Nova Scotia ride, but the commission can deviate from that target by 25 percent to accommodate community interest, identity, or history.

That means each ride could have as many as 66,095 people and as many as 110,158 people.

Battiste lives on a horse farm that experienced one of Nova Scotia’s largest population declines since the lines were last redrawn, but the current population would still comply with the rules.

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He questioned the decision to remove two of the three Mi’kmaw First Nations who are in his riding territory, including his own large community.

“It seems rather strange and rather peculiar that out of an entire ride the only place that gets removed is the largest Mi’kmaw community,” he said.

Other Nova Scotia Liberal MPs, including Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser and Lena Metlege Diab, have expressed concern that the new borders could also divide other communities of racialized Nova Scotians.

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The three testified Tuesday before the House of Commons Procedures and Affairs Committee, which is examining the proposed new electoral boundaries.

Another proposed change for Halifax West would remove a diverse portion of the community from urban riding, Diab said.

In its report, the commission acknowledged the concerns, saying it had received “a significant number of telephone and email inquiries” about its proposals, but “people don’t like change” and that there was “a strong sense of history in the world.” Province”.

“Particularly in rural areas, there is a clear desire for certain counties to remain together in the same constituencies ‘as they have been since Confederation,'” the report said.

The report also noted that local residents were confused about the consultation process, but omitted any mention of tribal peoples.

Over the past year, the commission held nine hearings, including some in French and one virtually, to hear from Nova Scotians.

However, the three Liberal MPs expressed concerns that they would not take in indigenous peoples, immigrants, newcomers and other racist groups.

Battiste said most Mi’kmaq people live about 40 minutes from where the deliberations took place, many of them don’t speak English and many don’t have transportation to get there.

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He said the commission failed in its duty to consult, and First Nation chiefs in Nova Scotia are considering escalating the matter to federal court.

“There’s a reason systemic racism is embedded in the system, because (it) isn’t designed to accommodate tribal peoples,” Battiste told MPs during the committee meeting.

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The Liberal MP asks a question in the House of Commons in Mi’kmaw

MEPs’ objections should be sent back to the Commission for consideration.

Fraser said after the hearing he wanted the commission to work with First Nations, Black communities and communities again.

He said the Commission’s first consultations were held in small rooms that didn’t have room for everyone who wished to attend, and on one occasion the venue was changed at the last minute.

“Clarity in the process to allow people to participate fairly is really important. I hope they take the opportunity to re-engage impacted communities that have raised objections so they can come up with a better outcome at the end of the day,” Fraser said.

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Despite objections, the final decision on redrawing federal rides in each province rests solely with the Provincial Commission, whose members are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

In Nova Scotia, commissioners include Louise Carbert and David Johnson, who are political science professors at Dalhousie University and Cape Breton University, respectively.

A third commissioner for the province is Judge Cindy Bourgeois, who sits on the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals.

All approved changes will take effect no earlier than during a general election after April 1, 2024.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 31, 2023.

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