There is optimism after two divided factions of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan (MN-S) finalized an agreement to bring stability and credibility back to the organization.
"I think this is a first step in two things that Métis people have long wanted, a Métis Nation Legislative Assembly (MNLA) and election," said president Robert Doucette.
An elated Doucette believes this paves the way for both to happen this year.
Political infighting has long plagued the MN-S, affecting its ability to function. The bickering reached a tipping point at the end of 2014 when the federal government pulled $414,000 in funding, forcing the MN-S to lay off staff and shut the doors of its Saskatoon office.
In December, Ottawa helped broker a compromise between the two sides that would see the MN-S relinquish operating power to a third party company of their choosing. The soon-to-be signed agreement appoints accounting firm Ernst and Young in Saskatoon to look after the MN-S administration and finances until the end of March. Upon signing, funding will flow from the federal government to the third party.
“This will be a pathway to the future, it will allow us to have a legislative assembly and eventually an election, where we will elect a leadership that will lead us for the next four years, after 2016," said MN-S Vice President Gerald Morin.
Doucette said the agreement also safeguards the organization's assets, sensitive files and Métis history locked away in the office that they have not been able to access since the end of March.
"I'm very happy that all the confidential files and the more than $2-million in assets in that building are now going to be protected," Doucette said.
Doucette and Morin have been at odds for years but Morin feels leadership is united.
“Certainly, speaking for the majority of the provincial Métis council, we’ve been doing everything we can, we’ve really rolled up our sleeves, we have worked very hard to ensure these agreements are in place, we have encouraged the other people who have not attended the meetings to work with us and to work together to put these agreements in place and to implement them. Let’s get to a legislative assembly, let’s get to an election, let’s ensure there is accountability and transparency that has been lacking all this time and lets move forward on that basis,” he said.
No timeline has been set for a legislative assembly or election. Doucette said the earliest one could be held is spring, with an election to follow in late summer or fall. The last elections were held in 2012.
Dourcette has announced he will not seek reelection. He is hoping new blood, young and old, will step forward.
"I think there's nothing better than to have a brand new agenda with some fresh faces that could infuse some energy and enthusiasm into an organization that really needs it right now," he said.
"The organization needs a dust-off from stem to stern."
MN-S represents about 100,000 Métis people in the province.
With files from paNOW.com
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