"Historically," notes the internest site of the First Peoples' National Party of Canada, "First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples have not participated in politics to our fullest extent." As such, the political process has been largely 'unresponsive' to the needs of First Peoples. Even if they are sometimes well-intentioned, the argument goes, politicians scarcely understand the needs and conditions of First Peoples and, more often than not, they have to be prodded to take notice, or confronted when they fail to notice. Whether the issues be unresolved land claims; resource rights; hunting and fishing; poverty, health care, water treatment, and sanitation on reserves; status off reserves; schooling and access to higher education; or even self-government; the wheels turn slowly on the mainstream political bus.
And so, in 2004, an organizing meeting in Sault Ste. Marie began the process of establishing a political party dedicated to synthesizing and promoting an authenitic agenda for the First Peoples in Canadian politics. Barbara Wardlaw became the interim leader of this new political entity. The specific strategy of the new party was to run candidates in ridings with large First Nations populations in order to challenge the mainstream parties. In the 2006 general election, the FPNP fielded five candidates in ridings across three provinces (Ontario, Alberta and B.C.). In the current 2008 general election, the FPNP has nominated six candidates.
Recently, the party leadership became a tad bit perturbed when Elizabeth May was allowed to represent the Greens at the leadership debates while the First Nations party was excluded. And don't get them started on Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois. Following a Sept. 11, 2008, appearance by David Suzuki on CTV's Canada A.M., the party issued a terse statement which included the following:
Canada's First Peoples are not part of the political system and is the reason why the First Peoples National Party (FPNP) was formed. Any country that excludes its indigenous peoples from its political system is a colonial society.
Inspired and formed by Canada's First Peoples the FPNP is the only party that can be truly called a National Federal Party yet we are left out of this national debate. The First Peoples values of inclusion is the reason why Canada exists today. It is this value of inclusion that guides the FPNP and our policies.
Just as Mr. Suzuki suggested of the Green Party, the FPNP has the MORAL RIGHT to be included in the national leader's debate. Only then would the centuries old injustices be addressed and healing for all Canadians can begin.
That's alright. Suzuki ticks off a lot of people, at one time or another.
So, what about policies? Well, while the FPNP has no official position on such issues as agriculture, defense, arts, immigration, the gun registry, same sex rights, or marijuana, it does hold firm positions on a number of other critical files. The party is in favour of -->
- participatory democracy
- universal childcare
- proportional representation
- the establishment of a First Nations parliament
- locally-based economic initiatives that are "ecologically and socially sustainable"
- writing off all First Nations debt
- a ban on genetically engineered or modified foods
- criminalizing industrial pollution and "over-harvesting and habitat destruction"
- community-based home care as an alternative to institutionalized health care
- the establishment of an Indigenous Peoples' Development Bank
- forgiveness of all third-world debt
- First-Peoples' governments having powers of taxation.
Within the ranks of the party, there may be a bit of a tension regarding how closely aligned the party should be with the Assembly of First Nations -- or whether, in fact, it should chart its course independently. The above list of policy options suggest some points of close agreement with the AFN (land-claims settlement and First Nations governance; health and education). But there is also an indication of a broader progressive ideology here (i.e., forgiveness of third world debt; opposition to G-M foods) that belies the expedient pragmatism of leaders like Phil Fontaine.
So, now we have them up on the big board. Best of luck on the 14th to the six candidates holding the First Peoples' banner -- The Fightin' FPNP 6. We'll be keeping a eye out for you as the returns start coming in.