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Marshall loses CBRM District 3 seat but still grateful for time serving the community

ESKASONI, N.S. — The Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s first-ever Mi’kmaq municipal councillor took his defeat in stride at his home in Eskasoni First Nation on Saturday after losing his seat for the second time.

Esmond (Blue) Marshall was first elected to CBRM council in 2004 becoming the municipality’s first Mi’kmaq councillor. He then lost his seat in 2008. And in 2016 he became the District 3 representative again, serving for the past four years.

“I really don’t mind,” said the 55-year-old. “You win and you lose, that’s how I look at it.”

Marshall was proud of his term and felt during his tenure he helped add to Eskasoni’s recreation through new playgrounds. Although First Nations are funded mainly through the federal government, Marshall said Mi’kmaq communities add a lot to the CBRM and that’s why he felt it was important to have a First Nations voice.

The voting total shows Marshall receiving 1,221 votes, which was a slight increase from the 1,189 votes he received in 2016. But newly elected District 3 representative Cyril MacDonald saw the biggest jump in his vote tally from his previous attempt at winning the district in 2016. He won only 690 votes in that election but on Saturday he garnered 2,098 votes.

Eskasoni’s voting kiosk stirred up controversy last week when candidates were surprised to learn about its existence. Many felt it was necessary but wished other communities had the opportunity to have a kiosk to assist those uncomfortable voting online or via telephone, some for the first time.

But for Marshall the voting centre was essential because Eskasoni faces internet connectivity issues and language barriers. Many community members are Mi’kmaw first.

Marshall says an all-electronic ballot system created other issues.

“One thing that was hurting us was the ballot thing, no paper ballots. Some people in Eskasoni are scared of computers,” said Marshall.

He did wish MacDonald and all of the elected candidates the best of luck. Marshall knows it’s a hard job and he hopes they’re all ready to keep the First Nation communities in mind.

As for MacDonald, he knows he has a lot to learn.

“I don’t know all the issues that Eskasoni faces and First Nation people face and again for me it’s (about) the opportunity to bridge some of those gaps,” said the 27-year-old.

MacDonald says he’s worked with all five Cape Breton First Nations communities through Sport Nova Scotia and hopes to meet with community members in Eskasoni to tackle some of the issues they face.

He knows they face issues of poverty, transportation and hopes to make the Mi’kmaq community of 4,500 feel more of a part of the CBRM.

And he knows that many of his constituents struggle with internet connectivity because of their remote locations.

“This is 2020 and everybody should have internet access,” MacDonald said.

He was grateful for everyone that cast a vote for him, the people who supported him in his campaign and hoped to gain the trust of those who didn’t vote for him over the next four years.

MacDonald also hoped with this election, and a string of diverse candidates, that the municipality was beginning to do away with the so-called “old boys club.”

“We need to start seeing diversity in our council.“

That is something Marshall agreed with. He was hopeful that municipalities across the province might have designated seats for First Nations and other diverse people to ensure those voices were always heard at the table.

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He recalled reminding the CBRM council just how precious the water is to Mi’kmaq communities and that’s something he hopes they never forget.

Marshall plans on spending more time with his family. He and his sons, Owen and Merle, are a part of Blue’s Band. Marshall also wanted to thank his family and community.

“You can’t forget about your community, they’ll be there for you no matter what. And I want to thank my community for being there for me all these years,“ he said.
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