Metis Nation-Sask. to hold first general assembly in years

By Bryan Eneas
June 20, 2016 - 1:21pm

For the second time in only three years, the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan will be meeting to form a government.

After years of infighting, federal funding pulled and even disputes over locations of their general meeting, the local will be hosting its assembly July 30 in Yorkton. Then, on September 3, an election will be held to create a new government as the current one was not recognized by all members.  

For the North Saskatchewan River Metis Local, the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan being reinstated means more support when grant applications are submitted, according to Barry Robertson, president and 30 year member of the chapter.

“We’ve been pretty much self-sufficient, we’ve been in operation since 1991. We’ve got nothing (from the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan) other than verbal support or sometimes support when we apply for a grant…As far as money coming downhill, no, none of that comes to us,” Robertson said.

The biggest impact that these legislative assemblies will have is the reestablishment of a Metis government. Once a government is established, decisions can be made regarding policy. The local Metis organization hasn’t received any direction on what to do regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling which declared Metis people First Nations under the Indian Act.

According to Robertson, even though there won’t be a big impact on his local directly the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan getting together is still a big deal.

“It’s a big deal to get the people together, we’re the voting people. We’ll get you elected, you’re working for the people; you’re not working for yourself. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it, anyways,” Robertson said. “We might not have a heck of a lot of money but we keep our little office open and do whatever we can for the people.”

Robertson’s local helps Metis in the Prince Albert community in many ways, such as helping with applications or letters for school, and finding whatever funding its members may qualify for. Robertson’s local has organized bake and craft sales, fundraised at bingos, and applies for federal grant money to keep its doors open.

Robertson hoped the assembly and subsequent election could create more conversations between his and other Metis locals across the province.

“It’s sort of a breakdown in communications, that’s really what it is,” Robertson said. “It doesn’t have to be like meeting every individual…but maybe once a year or every second year, they should come and visit the locals. Just to let people know what’s going on, or to hold a mini meeting in Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford, Prince Albert, places like that,” Robertson said.

One of the most contentious issues in the lead up to this meeting is the location of the assemblies. In the past, these meetings have been held in Saskatoon or Prince Albert.

“This is the first time they’ve met all the way down there (in Yorkton)…Most of the time I’ve been around, it’s usually in Saskatoon, sometimes here in Prince Albert, sometimes the Battlefords. It’s easier for the people from up North to attend,” Robertson said. “It helps the northern people a lot, they don’t have to go as far. We have a lot of presidents up North a lot of older people. It’s a long drive from communities like Beauval, Il-a-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows; places like that.”

Robertson has fielded many calls from people from these northern communities about why the assembly isn’t being held in Prince Albert or Saskatoon, but he has no sway in the decision making process.

“I just say well, it’s not my decision I guess. It’s not my call where they hold it, but attend if you can,” Robertson said. 

Metis Nation - Saskatchewan operations in Saskatoon were shut down last year as the provincial government pulled $410,000 in funds from the organization. The nation is supposed to meet at least twice a year, and has failed to do so for five years. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada had to step in with $200,000 in funds in order to backup and protect the Metis Citizenship Registry as well as fund the three meetings taking place this year.

While things have been in turmoil for the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan for the past few years, things have not always been that way. There have been times of peace within the organization, and the hope is that the Legislative and General Assemblies will bring some of the conflict to resolution according to Robertson.

President Robert Doucette, and other members of Metis Nation – Saskatchewan were unavailable for comment.

 

Bryan.Eneas@jpbg.com

On Twitter: @BryanEneas

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