‘Not backing down’: Harmonie King asks northerners to vote NDP

“We need our matriarchs in positions of leadership so that we can bring forward different perspectives," Harmonie King.

As New Democratic Party candidate for the federal riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Meadow Lake resident Harmonie King said her youth care worker diploma and bachelor of social work helped shape her “trauma-informed” approach to policy in northern Saskatchewan.

King said that if elected her primary focus will be getting better access to health services and improving infrastructure for northerners. 

“I believe in having universal dental care, having better healthcare for everyone; such as eye care, hearing care, and (support) for people struggling with infertility,” King said. 

“We’re talking about a northern infrastructure fund to fast track investments on improving roads… also having access to broadband and internet connection in all of the communities. Traveling up north there are a lot of areas where you have absolutely no cell phone coverage. So in the wintertime it’s extremely dangerous.”  

King played a part in fellow Métis musician Tristen Durocher’s advocacy to address high rates of suicide among northern and Indigenous youth that led to the province passing an NDP nominated bill this spring that was twice defeated in the past.

“I’ve gone to communities, I’ve had to debrief staff, and students because of suicides. No child at all should ever feel that hopeless where they take their own life,” King said. 

“There are a lot of families that need support in regard to the trauma that they’ve experienced. Trauma from colonization and residential school. How to support that change is to build those strong foundations and create those bridges. Don’t just say you’re going to do something and then not do it.” 

King said she has more than 10 years’ experience working to empower youth, supporting families and building economic opportunities for people with reduced mobility or cognitive impairments. She said that as MP she would work to reduce inequality, uphold Indigenous rights and advocate for self-determination. 

She would also fight to have the day schools at Timber Bay and Ile-a-la-Crosse recognized as residential schools by the federal government so that survivors can be compensated. 

“I do have family members that have gone to residential school. I have two great uncles who died in the residential school fire in Beauval,” King said.  

“I’ve seen and witnessed firsthand the impacts of what intergenerational trauma has caused throughout the north and across Canada — the dramatic impacts on people. I would be advocating as much as possible for reconciliation in regard to Indigenous people.”

King’s solution to rising crime rates in northern Saskatchewan would be to implement social programs with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation over incarceration. 

“If you take away social programming of course your crime is going to skyrocket. You have to put things in place. A lot of these people have been impacted in some way due to trauma or they go down the wrong path. It’s destructive to themselves, it’s destructive to communities and quite frankly it’s dangerous,” King said. 

“The way to help these people is to have trauma-informed approaches, have a little bit more education, anti-oppressive and anti-racist strategies. There are things that can be done and there’s programming that can be put in place to help rehabilitate people and to help bring down the crime rates.” 

King said she wants to solve the housing crisis that has resulted in overcrowding and homelessness in the region amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There’s neglect in Canada over the rise of the housing crisis. The NDP wants to commit to 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing within 10 years, and collaborate through partnerships with the provincial and municipal governments,” King said. 

“That’s going to create jobs in the process by jumpstarting economic recovery. We also want to waive the federal portions of the GST on construction for those projects. We continue having this struggle of people trying to decide whether they are going to pay for housing or for food.” 

King previously ran as NDP candidate for Meadow Lake in the 2020 provincial elections. She made an unsuccessful bid for the position of treasurer with the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan (MN-S) in 2021.

“People in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River have been facing some difficult challenges over the past few months and will have more to overcome once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. I promise that I will fight for support for the people who need it most,” King said.

“We have a lot of work to do to build back our economy once this is all over. I will always make sure that the voices of everyone in Desnethé— Missinippi—Churchill River, especially those who often go unnoticed, are heard.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a federal election on Sunday and King will face off against current Conservative MP Gary Vidal. 

Former Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger left the provincial NDP last week to seek the nomination as federal Liberal candidate for the riding. He expects to be confirmed in the coming days.

King said that as an Indigenous woman and a northerner with hands-on experience she knows what communities need to recover from the pandemic and thrive into the future.

“I work for the people and I will continue to support everyone. I’m not going to back down from a fight and I’m not going to be scared of bringing issues forward, because I deal with a lot of issues every day that typically most politicians don’t,” King said. 

“We need our matriarchs in positions of leadership so that we can bring forward different perspectives.”

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