Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario May Create New Northern Ridings Primarily for First Nations Communities

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario May Create New Northern Ridings Primarily for First Nations Communities

Article excerpt

Ontario may get new northern ridings

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TORONTO - Ontario may create at least one new northern riding in addition to 15 new seats that will be added for the 2018 election because of population growth, and it could result in the election of the province's first indigenous member of the legislature.

The province's two northern most ridings -- Timmins-James Bay and Kenora-Rainy River -- could be divided to create one or two more ridings, which would be made up primarily of First Nations communities who could elect one of their own as MPP.

"That opportunity becomes that much more real if there are ridings that are more focused and dedicated to (Indigenous communities)," said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. "This affords us an exciting opportunity to have ridings that are predominantly indigenous in nature in terms of people who live in those communities."

The two ridings have only 161,000 people in total, but encompass 589,000 square kilometres between the Quebec and Manitoba borders, and north to Hudson Bay, and include many fly-in First Nations communities with no year-round road access.

Naqvi said part of the Liberal government's motivation for creating the commission is to improve service to First Nations communities following Truth and Reconciliation report into the legacy of Canada's residential school system.

"As we are on the journey of reconciliation, we are far more attuned to the needs of Indigenous communities," he said. "It's important that their voices are strong and effective in the chamber where laws and policies are being developed."

New Democrat Gilles Bisson, who represents Timmins-James Bay, said his party has long pushed to increase the number of northern ridings to give local communities a stronger voice in the legislature.

"Who better to represent First Nations than their own people?"

Bisson is a pilot who owns a small plane that he uses to visit the fly-in communities in his riding, but he gets reimbursed only for the "mileage" as if he were driving a car, and pays the difference out of his own pocket. …

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