An Indigenous lawyer serving Sault Ste. Marie and area is looking to the public for support in her bid to run in the upcoming provincial election under the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) banner.
Naomi Sayers, an Anishinaabe legal professional from Garden River First Nation who opened her own law practice locally about two years ago, is currently in the process of collecting the signatures required in order to be considered as a potential Liberal candidate for the Sault Ste. Marie riding.
“I think it would be important for other young Indigenous people to see that it’s possible that you can put your name forward, and you can have similar experiences to mine,” said Sayers, speaking with SooToday Wednesday. “There’s really nothing that I have to lose besides a potential election. That’s okay with me — you don’t know unless you try.”
Sayers said her interest in politics can be traced back to her first attempt at voting as an 18-year-old living in Sault Ste. Marie, when she was told by volunteers at a voting station that she couldn’t vote in the city due to their assumption that she resided in Garden River. She was unaware of the fact that she had to bring her voting card, or a piece of identification that showed her address, in order to vote.
While she doesn’t believe that incident was racially motivated, she feels it was a form of disenfranchisement because the volunteers made an assumption about who she was, where she lived, and where she could vote — all by how she looked.
While Sayers is aware of some of the Liberal actions that have negatively impacted Indigenous Peoples in recent memory — SooToday asked her about the Liberal government’s efforts to withhold residential school documents and to appeal a 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that First Nations children were harmed by underfunding of child welfare — she said those actions were taken by the Liberal government at the federal level, not by the OLP at the provincial level.
“They have not had a great past with Indigenous folks, but I think that’s the same for almost any party,” said Sayers. “What I like about the Liberal Party, they’re about these ideas about diversity and inclusion, and just encouraging participation.”
So far, Sayers has managed to obtain the signatures of seven supporters since revealing her political aspirations on social media Tuesday. The OLP requires at least 25 signatures of either new or current party members in order to complete the nomination package.
Sayers hopes to have the nomination package submitted by the end of next week.
“If I don’t get these 25 signatures, I’m basically cut off right there,” she said.
Prior to becoming a barrister-solicitor, Sayers worked as an exotic dancer for a number of years. She told SooToday that she has never shied away from that fact, and has even featured a photo of herself from back in her dancing days on social media.
As a lawyer, Sayers would successfully fight in court to protect the identities of strippers fighting what they said was unfair and discriminatory treatment under Ontario's COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic.
The former stripper-turned-lawyer acknowledged that not everyone will accept her past.
“This is something I can’t shy away from, and it is what it is. It’s out there, and it’s part of destigmatization — and you can quote that,” she said.
Those interested in providing nomination signatures can contact Sayers by phone or text at (705) 230-0712 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.