At a meeting filled with discussions about the future and outbursts surrounding internal politics, members of Saskatchewan’s Métis community tried to find a way to keep the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) alive.
The Métis Nation General Assembly (MNGA) held on Saturday afternoon at the Central Urban Métis Federation (CUMFI) building in Saskatoon saw around 70 people gather to discuss the organization’s future.
“It’s pathetic really. The president and the Provincial Métis Council (PMC), they are in steady court cases and that,” local president Guy Tourand said.
“They have to come to a common understanding and deal with the people. They made it personal is what happened.”
Local leadership called for all Métis citizens to come out to the general assembly where they passed two resolutions including a manifesto which gives the MNGA authority to meet and make resolutions moving the MN-S forward and a resolution to hold an MNLA on December 11 and 12 and a MNGA on December 13. The motion to schedule the MNLA was unanimous.
There is a long history of political infighting at MN-S which resulted in the PMC not holding any meetings, which are required to set a date for MNLAs, and therefore no date was set for a legislative assembly since 2010.
In October 2014 the federal government halted funding to the group because of its failure to hold up to its financial agreement which requires two assemblies a year. Without the $416,000 annual federal operating grant, MN-S let its employees go and locked the doors this past March.
At the start of September, a Queen’s bench justice ruled that MN-S Vice President Gerald Morin and the PMC were not in contempt of court when they failed to hold a meeting to set an MNLA.
“We are hoping to get and MNLA but my feelings are if we don’t get an MNLA then the people should call a special meeting and vote the PMC out or take a more drastic measure and just dissolve the MN-S because we’ve got nothing right now so what are you going to lose,” Tourond said.
“Dissolve the corporation and start a new one from scratch and get rid of these people who are causing all of the problems.”
Brian Reynold-Potras said because of the two warring factions the MN-S is in “complete shambles”.
“They have ground the day-to-day operations of the MN-S to a complete halt and it’s affected everything, day-to-day stuff like housing, citizenship, and every other thing that the MN-S provides to it’s citizens,” Reynold-Potras said.
“I’m concerned because every other province in Canada has a fully functional Métis system… every province except Saskatchewan. We do not have a voice now, it’s been hushed.”
Local president for Green Lake Kelvin Roy was involved in calling the weekend’s general assembly. He said they are hopeful that there will be funding allocated to allow the MNLA to go ahead in December.
“We are making an application to both the federal and provincial authorities to release a portion of the hold back funds that are available, to a third party to manage these funds to ensure that the process moves along with the end result of having an MNLA and general assembly,” he said.
“People are very frustrated and upset and mad and outraged over what’s going on with their nation and they want action. It’s understandable to see such outrage at such a meeting.”
MN-S SASKATOON OFFICE FUTURE STILL UNCERTAIN
Last week, MN-S President Robert Doucette met with vice president Gerald Morin and federal representatives to find funds before the organization is forced to move out of their MN-S office in Saskatoon.
Doucette and Morin have been at odds for years but Doucette said he is optimistic about the talks.
“I can’t say we came up with any concrete plans in respect to the building but I think when federal officials did the tour of our building and they actually saw what was at stake, I think you are going to see some movement there,” Doucette said.
The building on Jessop Avenue holds more than $2 million worth of assets including servers, registry files for the province’s Métis citizens, confidential information, and artifacts. Doucette said they’ve only paid rent until the end of September but it would be extremely costly to have to move the organization out.
“I can’t speak for (the federal representatives), but I’m hopeful they will see at the very least they will pay some rent and we will come to some conclusion,” Doucette said.
Doucette added that if there is a concern around the political infighting, the politicians could move out of the building.
“Rehire the people for the registry, thats a stand alone registry, and there’s no politics there. Then we deal with (political) stuff outside that building,” he said. “But at least let our people register.”
– With files from News Talk Radio’s Lasia Kretzel