Indigenous candidates include artist Aaron Paquette, Reconciliation In Solidarity Edmonton (RISE) co-founder Miranda Jimmy, and freelance journalist Mimi Williams all running for council.
By Shari Narine
Edmonton could have its first Indigenous mayor this October.
Taz Bouchier, of Cree, Sioux and Scottish descent, made her official announcement this evening, but she says she has been campaigning since she lost her bid as a city councillor in 2013.
As she was determining which ward to seek a seat in for 2017, she was approached by people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and asked to consider running for mayor. She accepted.
“I didn’t see any representation of my voice or an Indigenous voice on city council. I don’t see the inclusion of diversity on city council,” said Bouchier, who has lived in Edmonton for almost her entire life.
“There’s nobody really listening to us on city council.”
Bouchier also believes that Edmonton has skewed too far on the side of sports – and she points to the city funding that went into building Rogers Place, the home arena for the Edmonton Oilers– and needs to make its way back to being people-centred.
That means addressing the high homeless numbers, the social issues that lead to poverty, the mental health issues, the lack of affordable housing for families, the lack of transitional housing, the need for a better plan to improve the public transportation system, and help for transitioning Indigenous people to the city.
Bouchier was a social worker for 30 years and while she is no longer registered she says she can’t help but continue to see issues in that light.
“I believe these issues are just being band-aided and I firmly believe there’s more initiatives that can be brought to light to support these,” she said.
Bouchier says funding for the social infrastructure could come through promoting partnerships between corporations and non-profit organizations by offering tax breaks to corporations.
“We have to develop a sense of community … to look to resolve some of these concerns,” she said.
Part of that community also comes in recognizing that Canada has three founding nations: the English, the French and the First Nations.
There needs to be more education, says Bouchier, and while she commends Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson for his efforts, she adds it’s not enough.
“He has to learn these things himself… and I don’t believe Edmonton is benefitting city-wide… I don’t believe it’s reaching the wider audience,” she said.
“I’m definitely more qualified to be addressing the cross-cultural training he’s attempting to do. I would demonstrate more cultural inclusion of every culture, just not our culture. We’re a multi-cultural city. I bring that to the table. It’s like walking in both worlds.”
Bouchier said she is seeking the position of mayor to represent all Edmontonians and not only Indigenous peoples. She says that should become clear as her campaign picks up steam, as she demonstrates her city-wide commitment with inclusive language and supporters who are multi-cultural.
The time is right for an Indigenous mayor, she says, and points to the handful of Indigenous candidates who are running for city council. She notes that in 2013, she was the only Indigenous contender for city council while Karen Pheasant was the only Indigenous candidate for one of Edmonton’s two main school boards.
“We’re making progress,” she said. “I think we’re moving forward.”
Bouchier says her campaign is important in the message she hopes it send to young Indigenous women: “You can achieve whatever you set your mind to. To not give up, to strive forward and to go for the dream. Being Indigenous should not be limiting; it should be empowering.”
According to http://www.daveberta.ca, Iveson is being challenged by three other people, but Bouchier’s name is not on the list.
The website also notes Indigenous candidates artist Aaron Paquette, Reconciliation In Solidarity Edmonton (RISE) co-founder Miranda Jimmy, and freelance journalist Mimi Williams all running for council.