Enormous, poor, mostly Indigenous riding needs MP in government, says Conservative candidate

Churchill-Keewatinook Aski Conservative candidate Cyara Bird had a goal of getting into politics but it’s happening four years earlier than she told herself it would.

“In 2013 I had made the goal to run in 2023 and I have achieved my goal four years earlier and it’s been awesome,” Bird said while in Thompson Sept. 19 for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) I’m First Nation and I Vote candidates’ forum. “The amount of support that I have received from the Conservative party really drives me to go forward.”

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A mother of two daughters under the age of four who lives in Little Black River First Nation near the southern end of the Churchill-Keewatinook Aski riding, which is the fourth-largest riding, geographically, in the country, covering more than 400,000 square kilometres, Bird says she thinks the area needs to be represented by an Indigenous Member of Parliament.

“Our riding has very, very, very high percentage of Indigenous people living here and I think it is time that we elect somebody who lives on reserve and whose problems are everyone else’s problems because a lot of us living on reserve are facing the same problems all around. We need someone who understands these issues, has experienced them and we need someone who has experienced these issues personally and is willing to fight, fight, fight for them and I believe that I am that person. I’m really tired of getting ready to give my kids a bath for the evening and not knowing if I’m going to have water. I’m getting really tired of my house that is only six or seven years old being absolutely covered in black mould. I get black mould all over my windows and I have to bleach and Windex them at least once a week. I’m tired of it being like that for other people as well.”

As someone who has experienced struggles with alcohol and being homeless, Bird says she relates to serious issues that face the riding, which has the highest child poverty rate of any riding in Canada.

“I’m a fierce advocate for First Nations issues but I also want to fight for the people who fight really hard to keep their money in their pocket,” Bird says. “I’ve been hearing a lot about how people can not afford to get ahead and a lot of families that are just like mine that have to choose between feeding their family or paying their Hydro bill.”

She also feels like part of the reason for problems in the riding is its recent history of having representatives who aren’t in a position to make meaningful change.

“I think a lot of people are tired of not being on the winning team,” Bird said. “There’s a lot of times where we have representation that is not in line with the federal government and in order for us to have decent representation where we can actually move forward we need to have a Member of Parliament that is a part of the majority government.”

And while the area hasn’t voted in a Conservative since the 1970s, Bird is confident that she can finish on top on election day Oct. 21.

“I know that I can win this riding. I just know that it’s going to take a lot of hard work. I don’t feel intimidated at all by any of the people that I am going up against or the voting history of the riding. I know that there is the potential to turn this riding blue again.”

The Conservative candidate is also confident that the right approach can encourage Northern Manitoba residents who haven’t voted before to make a trip to the ballot box in five weeks.

“I think that we can increase the voter turnout here. I really do believe that. I think it just comes with getting people excited and engaged with politics. Before politics was something that was not commonly spoken about and a lot of people weren’t very open with their beliefs and I believe that, as politicians, we need to set an example that we can have different partisan beliefs but that should not allow us to change our personal opinions about somebody. I think that’s how we could get more people involved, too. You can vote a certain way but still remember to have respectful conversations around politics.”

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