Ontario will have two new northern seats in next year’s provincial election to boost Indigenous representation, though First Nation communities say one of the riding’s names takes reconciliation a step backward.
Legislation passed Tuesday to create two new ridings called Kiiwetinoong and Mushkegowuk-James Bay. Kiiwetinoong is a majority Indigenous riding, while Mushkegowuk-James Bay has a population that’s about one-third Indigenous and 60 per cent francophone.
First Nations representatives had told the legislative committee that it was disrespectful for Mushkegowuk to be used in the riding name with no permission from the Mushkegowuk Council.
The Mushkegowuk Council and the Nishawbe Aski Nation said in a joint submission to the committee that they were not consulted on the name and called it “misleading.”
“This government’s own statistics indicate that the majority of the population would be francophone, not Indigenous,” they wrote. “We were led to understand that these proposed new ridings would be majority Indigenous, but examination of the population statistics shows that is not the case…Instead of giving First Nations a stronger voice, it may well diminish it, with less chance for First Nations to elect one of their own to represent their issues at Queen’s Park.”
The Progressive Conservatives proposed that the riding named Mushkegowuk be renamed altogether, but the majority Liberal committee added James Bay to the name and the legislation now requires the attorney general to review the name.