For much of the nation's history, Canada's Native peoples were denied the right to participate in the political process in any form. But political activism has long been a hallmark of Native groups as they attempted to assert their rights within the Canadian governmental system. Although for many years denied the right to vote or run for office, Native people used petitions, demonstrations, court challenges, and appeals to national and international interest groups to defend their political interests. In 1968, Len Marchand was elected to office as the Liberal member of Parliament for Kamloops-Caribou. Marchand was the first Native voice to be heard in the Canadian House of Commons as a voting member, and he later served as minister of state for small business from 1976 to 1977. He was also minister of state for the environment from 1977 to 1979. Marchand was appointed to the Senate in 1984, but he was not the first Native person to serve there: James Gladstone, a Blood Indian from southern Alberta, had been appointed to the Senate in 1958. Other milestones include the election of the first Inuk-Peter Freuchen Ittinuar in 1979-and treaty Indian-Wilton Littlechild in 1988-members of Parliament. In 1997, Marchand was responsible for another first in Canadian politics by offering to resign his life appointment as a Senator, an acknowledgement of growing Canadian dissatisfaction with an appointed Senate.

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