‘We don’t really get as much as the southern part of the province:’ Liberal candidate Darla Contois

A Cree and Saulteaux woman who grew up in Grand Rapids and attended middle school and high school in Norway House and Winnipeg, Darla Contois is the Manitoba Liberal Party candidate for the Thompson electoral division in the Sept. 10 provincial election. In February 2018, she protested outside the Manitoba legislature for 10 days after Raymond Cormier was acquitted of murdering Tina Fontaine.

Where do you live?

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I’m living in Winnipeg. I’ve mainly lived in Norway House and Grand Rapids. So I’ve lived up and around through southern central and northern Manitoba.

What do you do for a living?

I’ve been professionally trained as an actor. I’ve been doing it since I was 15 and recently when I moved back to Winnipeg I began teaching drama to young indigenous students and I’ve been working as a facilitator for the past probably about five or six years. I’m currently working right now on something called the reconciliation project. It works with seven different Indigenous organizations in the city and we’re working to talk about reconciliation and colonialsm and how that’s affected our Indigenous youth here in Winnipeg. We’re having those conversations to sort of break open the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and what these concepts really mean to us. 

If elected, what are the biggest issues you want to tackle in the upcoming term?

I think one of the main issues for me is where we currently stand in becoming carbon neutral. Something I’m really passionate about is the environment and moving forward towards making our economy less dependent on mining and less dependent on those kind of things that really harm the environment and then just really passionate about seeing Indigenous voices and seeing Indigenous cultures and Indigenous laws really represented in our government system.

How do you plan on representing northern interests in the Manitoba legislature?

I think Northern Manitobans feel really isolated and feel really inaccessible to the rest of the province and as a result feel really underrepresented in the Manitoba legislature and that’s something that I’d really like to bridge the gap on because there’s no reason that because we’re Northern Manitobans that we shouldn’t have the same rights to health care, we shouldn’t have the same infrastructure development that Winnipeg has and that’s something that I’d really like to see change is that mentality that because we live in the north we don’t really get as much as the southern part of the province does.

Why should someone vote for you instead of one of the other candidates?

My heart is in the right place. I’m looking to speak for Northern Manitobans in a way that is respectful and speaks for Indigenous culture and represents a strong Indigenous women’s perspective and I think that that’s something that’s really been missing in the Manitoba legislature is somebody who’s willing to have those difficult conversations and ask those difficult questions and really speak up and stand firm in representing Northern Manitoba.

What the most difficult thing about campaigning?

I think one of the main challenges us having the confidence to trust myself and trust that people will see that I’m here for the right reasons. I’m not in it for power, I’m not in it for money, I’m in it because I want to see change. I grew up in Grand Rapids, in northern or central-northern Manitoba, and I understand what it feels like to be that far north and not really feel like your voice is accounted for. I want the people to feel equal to the rest of the province.

Anything else you want to add?

My own personality as a person is very outspoken and very inquisitive. I love questioning things. In that way, it makes sense for me to become a political candidate but it’s never something I actually considered as a career because I guess as women we’re taught that our voices aren’t as valuable and we’re made to feel less confident than a man would in this kind of situation. I’m learning to find my own confidence and my own two feet and understanding where I can make change where I can fit in and learning abut that process.

Contois says she hopes to be in Thompson for the forum with Progressive Conservative candidate Kelly Bindle, NDP candidate Danielle Adams and Green candidate Meagan Jemmett being held Sept. 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre but is still finalizing her schedule for early September.

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