Federal Election

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Arguably the only highlight of last Thursday's debate was McLeod's question. Image: Debate Broadcast Group/Provided
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With leaders fighting each other to see who could most alienate voters, McLeod’s relatable moment made him the winner of the debate

Advanced voting for Canada’s federal election began Sept. 10, the morning after the only English-language leaders’ debate. Thousands of Canadian voters tuned in to hear the party leaders defend their platforms and prove why their vision is best. Instead, viewers were treated to two hours of pointless interruptions and pandering to whichever demographics the leaders believed they might be able to win over. 

The evening’s highlight was undoubtedly 18-year-old Marek McLeod’s question to the leaders. From Sault Ste. Marie, over a live video feed, the Indigenous first-time voter asked leaders: “How can I trust and respect the federal government after 150 years of lies and abuse to my people? As prime minister, what will you do to rebuild the trust between First Nations and the federal government?”

Sault Ste. Marie is in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory, and the land on which it is located is in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe. 

McLeod’s question kicked off 30 minutes of debate on the topic of reconciliation. In that time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied fighting Indigenous children in court, while Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet took his limited allotted time to double back and defend Quebec’s ban of religious symbols, stating “Quebec wants religion out of state affairs because religion has never protected equality for women, and never will.”

Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole was asked by APTN news host Melissa Ridgen to explain his vote against the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, and Green party leader Annamie Paul correctly pointed out NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s oversight of discussing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in favour of scoring points against Trudeau. 

McLeod spoke to the CBC and expressed disappointment in how his question was answered by Trudeau, who McLeod says has had six years to move the needle on reconciliation. McLeod also pointed out O’Toole’s concerning track record with reconciliation. McLeod found Singh and Paul to have the most sincere responses, and specifically stated that Paul might have the most reason to relate to his question as a Black Jewish woman in Canada. 

By the end of the debate, most voters felt even more alienated from the politicians on stage and Canadian politics as a whole. The snap election, amidst an intensifying fourth wave of COVID-19, already created worries regarding turnout for this election, and the debate left many uninspired and uninterested in trusting power in any of the options. 

When I step into the voting booth to pick between the leaders I saw at the federal debate stage, I will invoke the few words of the night that truly resonated with me. “Oh shoot,” – Marek McLeod.