The battle that has been waged between the Métis National Council and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan is now being fought in the trenches as MNC President Clem Chartier is among those challenging MN-S incumbent Glen McCallum for the position of president.
Chartier holds that the direction McCallum is taking the MN-S, particularly with the formation of a tri-council with the Métis Nation of Alberta and Métis Nation of Ontario, will send the MNC back to the days when it served as a pan-Aboriginal organization. He contends that the MNO, with the support from MN-S, has extended its membership to include people well beyond the Métis homeland who do not fit the definition of Métis adopted by MNC and its five provincial governments, which includes MN-S.
“It’s jeopardizing the future of the Métis Nation in terms of the successes that we’ve gained and, in particular, it affects the Métis National Council, which is the governance infrastructure of the Métis Nation,” said Chartier.
“This election is going to be very critical as to the future of the Métis National Council and that is one of the major reasons I’m running because I want to protect the integrity of the Métis Nation, its homeland and its citizenship,” Chartier added. He continues to serve as president of MNC. He will resign that position should he be successful in his bid to become president of MN-S, he tells Windspeaker.com.
As far as McCallum is concerned the MN-S has stuck by the resolution passed by the MNC defining who is Métis and he has joined with his fellow presidents of the MNO and MNA in calling the MNC “increasingly dysfunctional.”
McCallum also says there has been benefits to MN-S collaborating with MNO and MNA and he considers that relationship one of his accomplishments this past term.
In June 2019, the three Métis governments in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario joined forces to collaboratively advance the Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreements that each signed with the federal government. The following year, they met with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to continue to advance those agreements.
“If it wasn’t for the tri-council signing that core governance agreement, I don’t believe we’ll ever get to the point of legislation,” said McCallum.
Presidential candidate Mary Ann Morin also sees a value in the relationship between the MN-S, MNO and MNA, although she refuses to call them a tri-council because “Do they have letterhead?,” she asks.
“That’s only three provinces that are working together to move forward despite the paralysis of the Métis National Council not calling a board meeting in the past two years. So they’re moving forward to ensure that it's in the best interest of the citizens,” said Morin.
She adds she would be willing to work with the MNC if it “wants to bring us all back together as a group and work through these issues. I'm all-in again dependent on what my citizens want.”
Morin was elected as treasurer for MN-S in 2017, but her term was not without controversy. Four months after being elected, she was removed because she claimed a lack of transparency in financial dealings. She was reinstated by a court ruling in May 2020.
Morin says that if she is elected president she will change the structure of the organization, which is now “unhealthy for not only the people at the work environment, it's also unhealthy for the citizens of the whole.”
Fourth presidential contender Karen LaRocque says work needs to be undertaken to “bring the organization back to the people because it's the people that lead not me.”
“In order for us to build and to be able to sit at the table with any level of government, we have to ensure that we’ve got our people behind us. I think if we had that strength behind us again, I think we’d see a lot of things turning when it comes to those government negotiations,” said LaRocque.
LaRocque unsuccessfully challenged McCallum in 2017. Since that time she says she has gained confidence as CEO of Les Filles de Madeleine, a provincial organization with the mandate to provide a voice for Métis Nation women across the province of Saskatchewan. LaRocque says she’s gained a reputation as a strong leader.
“The big push right now between MN-S and MNC is this tri-council and the definition of who we are and trying to push the national approach and trying to push the nationalist agenda. Make no mistake, I’m a nationalist through and through … but we’re fighting over a definition instead of dealing with what could have been a very lucrative term for us in developing our governance framework, developing our frameworks for the benefits our people deserve,” said LaRocque.
Morin says many opportunities have bypassed the citizens of the MN-S because of the “very unsettled period” of the last four years.
“You look out into Métis Nation Alberta and Manitoba Metis Federation and you can see the growth in those areas of education and health and tourism opportunities for economic development, and within Saskatchewan we've been … kind of staying status quo all these years,” she said.
Chartier says the opportunities are here now with the Liberal government.
“We have a window of opportunity and I don't know if it's closing or not. If the Trudeau government gets re-elected they will have another four-year opportunity to pursue real and substantive Métis rights. That's what I'm hoping happens,” said Chartier, who points out that acquiring land is one of his priorities.
McCallum also sees opportunities with the Trudeau government.
“I know what I want for this province. I want the best. We’ve been left behind so long. With the relationship we built with the federal government, I love what they’re doing; the open door that they have and to be able to sign agreements and those agreements are in the best interest of the Métis people in Saskatchewan,” said McCallum. “For me, I only answer the questions of what’s right for the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan.”
Voting runs from May 14 to May 21, with the exception of Sunday, in the 12 regions. Advanced polling is held May 22 and general election day is May 29. Only those who are registered Saskatchewan Métis or have letters of registry, and are at least 16 years of age, may vote. Chief Electoral Officer Gwen Lafond estimates 16,000 people are eligible.
Ballots will be cast for the positions of president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer.
By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com