Not one of the candidates for NDP leadership will really replace Jack Layton. Jack brought the party to what it is today, and instead of looking for a replacement, we need to look at who will be best to move our party forward and lead us to government in 2015. With this in mind, it became easier to start to decide who I wanted to see leading our federal party.
We have an embarrassment of riches in our leadership candidates, and it wasn’t an easy choice, but I’ve decided to support Romeo Saganash for leader of the New Democratic Party.
Going into this race I knew very little about Romeo. I kept an eye on his campaign during the 2011 federal election and was interested in seeing what he could accomplish. I was intrigued when he put his name forward as leader. Romeo was the first Cree lawyer in Quebec and the first Cree Member of Parliament. He is now the first Aboriginal person to run for leadership of a major Canadian party.
He’s a trailblazer and an inspiration.
His is an amazing story that is symbolic of the colonial history of Canada and the struggle for cultural survival that Aboriginal people have faced in this country. Romeo was born in the bush, on his reserve in northern Quebec, part of the last generation of Aboriginal people to do so. At 7 he was taken from his family and sent to a residential school where every effort was taken to strip him of his language and culture.
The fact that he moved forward with his studies, finished law school, and became a leader of his people says something about his abilities – moving beyond the traumas of the residential school system and the cultural genocide imposed on Aboriginal peoples, to today, running for party leader and, potentially, Prime Minister. It’s heartwarming and inspirational, just like the man himself.
The initial idea of Canada’s first Aboriginal person running for Prime Minister drew me to Romeo, but more important to me was his substance as an individual. Would he have what it takes to lead us to government? If there, what kind of government would Romeo create?
I believe he does have what it takes and I believe he will have a remarkable ability to bring Canadians together, begin to heal wounds and move us forward as a country. I see Romeo as a unifier – of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, Quebecers and non-Quebecers, English and French, rural and urban. Early on as MP he has been striking a chord for reconciliation, for the need to come together as Canadians. I believe that the legacy of Stephen Harper’s government will be a need to reunify Canadians, to bring us together by putting an end to divisive politics. We need a unifier at the helm in Ottawa.
Romeo Saganash played a key role in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Paix des Braves agreement between the Government of Quebec and the Grand Council of the Crees. He also helped negotiate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Romeo is a negotiator and through that experience he has become a unifier. He’s adept at looking across the table with empathy to understand the other side and move forward with a plan.
I believe that we are well past due to engage with Aboriginal communities and strike a better deal across Canada to improve access to opportunity, improve quality of life and equitably fund education for Aboriginal students. After talking with Romeo about his experience negotiating on behalf of the Cree in Quebec, I’m certain that he has the background to navigate this and the ability to communicate the needs of all involved, bringing forward some reconciliation between the government and Aboriginal people in Canada.
In selecting my candidate I also tried to imagine the 2015 federal election. I imagined the candidates standing at podiums and giving speeches, heading across Canada to meet with people, and standing up for these people in the leaders’ debates. Would they have a vision that Canadians could rally behind and could they effectively express that vision?
Romeo will appeal to people through his down-to-earth nature and his positive attitude. It’s that attitude that has come to define our party – the party of hope, the party of optimism, the party of love. I believe it’s essential that we choose a leader who exhibits these qualities. Romeo will move our party, and in turn, the country, forward through positivity.
He’ll put the well-being of people on the table by fighting for workers, fighting for everyday people, for opportunity, equality, the environment, for the future. He’ll work to ensure that Canada is successful because all Canadians are successful. Canada can become the land of opportunity – for all – and find the social justice that our party fights for.
Canada needs us to forge ahead with a more positive and hopeful political movement, and I believe that Romeo Saganash will be the New Democratic leader who can best bring the party and the Canadian people together to create a better government.
I am proud to support Romeo Saganash for leadership of the New Democratic Party.
“Canada prospers when we share this vision for a strong, healthy, fair country. It prospers when we share in the effort of making that vision a reality and it prospers when we share in the benefits of our accomplishment.
I am running to lead the New Democratic Party of Canada, to become Leader of the Official Opposition and to become Prime Minister after the next election because I believe that, together, we can make this vision a reality.” –Romeo Saganash