Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thank you Alberta Liberal Party - Canmore!

I was invited to speak today in Canmore at the Alberta Liberal Party (ALP) Annual General Meeting (AGM) today. Here is what I said:

I want to start by acknowledging as of 1877, we are on the land of Treaty 7, before there was a province of Alberta in 1905. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Indigenous peoples hunted bison in the Bow Valley, leaving behind some of the oldest archaeological sites in Canada dating back more than 8,000 years. The Stoney Nakoda, Siksika, Blood, and Kootenai First Nations all have deep connections to Canmore Kananaskis. Visitors can find 1000 year old pictographs left by First Nations in nearby  Grotto Canyon. I’m going to credit Tourism Canmore for that information!

I want to thank Brent for inviting me, an Indigenous woman, to be here today. Cdns are starting to see Indigenous inclusion thanks to the hard work of Indigenous peoples efforts, and most recently the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work on the ugly truth of residential schools. Let’s also acknowledge I’m speaking to you in English, and not Dene, my roots, or Blackfoot, of these lands. The good news is, we are seeing a change in non-Indigenous leadership on the issue of Indigenous. I’m not surprised to see the party that has stood for human rights, the Liberals, leading the way. THAT is why I am here today, at an Alberta Liberal Party event. As an Indigenous human rights organizer, it was the members of the Liberal Party, federally and provincially, that attended Indigenous vigils. Of course that is why I gravitated to the Party, seeing Harry Chase, David Swann, Vincent St. Pierre, Kent Hehr, David Khan and more Liberals to name at Indigenous events. I’m proud to be standing here so again, I thank you Brent for the inclusion.

I want to tell you about Calgary-Greenway, the riding I live in. I want to acknowledge the legacy of Manmeet Bhullar. He and I understood the issues of violence against children and women only with different cultural perspectives. He stood for the issue of stopping abuse against children and women, even when there were members in his community that didn’t want him to. I will always have a deep love for the late Manmeet Bhullar for doing the portfolio of the foster system and allowing names to be published of children that died in care. So that is why we had the by-election that no one wanted to have with his passing.

I had literally been asking  peace activist, human rights advocate and someone I’m lucky to call a good friend, Saima Jamal, to run for years. Cultural politics being how they are and being a personal friend to Manmeet Bhullar, she would never run against him. A little fun fact, Manmeet knew he had a real chance of losing the last general election. He was trying to get Saima to get ME to run, LOL! I told her he just wanted to split the vote. I left out the politics of our own party, LOL! So naturally Saima and I were at the funeral of Manmeet, and sat together. I gave the stink eye to young Conservatives that had the audacity to be talking about the by-election in Greenway that will be forced.

After Christmas, we started talking about the by-election. Not having a by election, wasn’t going to bring him back. We knew there were many things at stake for many parties. The PC’s and WRP both needed to look like they mattered. The NDP wanted to prove people agreed with their vision. The Alberta Liberal Party, never had a board nor ran a candidate in the general election in Greenway and had lost many great MLA’s in the past election.

So we were literally starting from scratch. For me personally, I knew I had Dr. David Swann’s support, so I could actually do something in Greenway. Immediately I went to Saima, told her we can do this, that she was the perfect person to honour Manmeet’s legacy as a friend of his but as a Liberal like me. I told her we had no board, an AGM would have to be called so bring as many people to be on the board to help. I knew we had a chance!

I later found out that there were other Liberals approaching other potential candidates and Khalil Karbani was one of them. I seen he had strong ties to the Genesis Centre and in the Taradale area so I was happy strong candidates were interested in our riding. Like rule followers Liberal are, we had our AGM, and had an amazing turnout. I got to meet Khalil for the first time at the AGM and what a humble, wonderful  man. This showed me the Liberals had our principles worth standing for and having the backing of community to go up against the NDP with strong candidates like this.

Fast forward to the candidate’s race, both candidates had amazing showing. The party even allowed newly landed Syrian Refugees to vote! As a federal Liberal going through the hard Albertan waters of justifying the human rights atrocities the refugees faced in order to come here, having the ALP do that make be so proud to be a Liberal.

Khalil won the race and Saima was so graceful. Watching Dr. David Swann hug Saima, and whisper encouraging words, showed the people in the room what a strong, empathic leader with deep Liberal values looks like. From that moment forward, we knew the race was on.
Campaigning in our area is task in cultural understanding. When Mohammad came on as the campaign manager, I was happy the Alberta Liberal Party, and even myself as an Indigenous woman, would have that cultural guidance. Of course Saima, and other women I’m lucky to know helped me with questions I would have about sexism, homophobia and other topics westerners like myself have a lack of education on. I knew I was lucky to have great Liberal support in this area. Because I’ve lived in Abbeydale since 2005, I seen the sign wars. The Liberals that came across the city to help had not, LOL! The riding was littered with signs of all the parties. You can go to a house and have every single party on that lawn. These are the fun parts of campaigning and unique to our riding.

Like all elections, the night of E-day was tense. I was snippy with Mo and waiting for numbers. I knew he forgave me because of our interactions at the federal Convention, LOL! We lost the election by 422 votes with 23% of the vote. Think about that. We went from no board, no candidate to 23% of the vote. During the federal door knocking, people gave me the gears for not running a candidate provincially. While I used the opportunity to encourage volunteerism, I knew there was a need for a candidate, party politics or not. 23% of the vote wanted a Liberal, Khalil, as our candidate. I also found out that many voted PC out of sympathy which I should have accounted for but didn’t. That means next election, there won’t be the emotional ties to that party. By the Alberta Liberal Party coming in third, it sent a strong message that the NDP’s ways weren’t resonating with the voters with them placing fourth. One of the takeaways I personally came away with is that we should have focused more on the community the advanced polls were in, Abbeydale, my area. It could have been the difference to win. (Getting more women to the polls would have helped too.) Regardless, going from no place to third, ahead of the governing party, shows all of Alberta the potential the ALP has in the next election. If the NDP isn’t making the so-called progressives happy, they will be looking for the alternative. We are that alternative. Now is the time to start the coffee meetings, get the supporters and build so we are ready. I was told at a non-profit event that no one wants a meeting. They want a PARTY! So that is why having a nature walk after getting the formal work done here today is so critical. I really applaud the organizers here for getting started on the right foot. Let’s keep building on this momentum and get in Legislature with more MLA’s, ones that care about Indigenous, care about community, care about the economy and can be a team player. Thank you again for having me.

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