McCallum re-elected to lead Métis Nation of Saskatchewan

McCallum said his first priorities are to reform the Métis judicial system and work to negotiate land claims in northwest Saskatchewan

Métis Nation of Saskatchewan President Glen McCallum speaks at Back to Batoche opening ceremonies in July 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Métis citizens of Saskatchewan reelected Glen McCallum as president on Saturday. The incumbent held on to his position in a tight four-way race to head the MN-S during a period of transition in the Métis government. 

According to unofficial polls from the office of the chief electoral officer McCallum got 1,674 votes, Métis National Council (MNC) President Clem Chartier came in second with 1,458. Karen LaRocque came in third place with 634 votes and Mary Ann Morin got 623. Preliminary results show Michelle Leclair as VP and Lisa McCallum as secretary.

“I believe the majority of our people have been excited about where the Métis nation is going and we have to continue building it,” McCallum told the Daily Herald before election day.

MN-S election workers at the polls on Saturday. Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock

For the last four years under president Glen McCallum’s leadership the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan (MN-S) has moved to solidify their governance system, citizenship requirements, approach to land-claims and consultation policies with industry. 

McCallum said his first priorities are to reform the Métis judicial system and work to negotiate land claims in the northwest. He intends to finalize a province-wide agreement on the duty to consult with the Métis on resource development.  

He wants to focus on building “strong and reliable” healthcare and wellness systems while expanding culture and language programs. 

The MN-S has signed agreements with the federal and provincial governments and an ongoing court action challenging the province’s 2010 consultation framework. 

This year’s election was the first to require that voters present Métis citizenship cards or proof that they had already applied for one, along with valid identification. 

McCallum says citizenship cards are important to make sure that everyone who votes is in fact Métis. 

Chartier, LaRoque and Morin all argue the Métis locals (local governments spread across the province), who have long decided who votes, should continue to be permitted to do so. In previous elections Métis would sign a declaration before voting and access services by way of community consensus. 

February’s Métis National Legislation Assembly (MNLA) passed amendments to the Saskatchewan Métis Elections Act and the MN-S Citizenship Act making the cards a requirement. Chartier challenged the amendments at the provincial Court of Queen’s Bench but the court upheld them. 

“They’ve dispossessed so far hundreds of people that have wished to vote and can’t vote in this election — which is truly a crime against our people — stripping them of their democratic rights,” Chartier said. 

“Their new policy over the past two years is if you don’t have a card, you don’t get services. During COVID I’m told there are people that couldn’t get any help because they didn’t have a card. This is totally, totally wrong.”

Chartier also took issue with an MN-S lawsuit against the province of Saskatchewan filed last fall over its 2010 Consultation Policy Framework for the duty to consult on development projects — which the MN-S contends doesn’t properly recognize Métis title to the land.  

“MN-S has taken the position that the duty to consult is not owed to the community… that it is owed to them. And they in fact, have taken the province to court last fall, saying that the 2010 Consultation Policy is wrong. That it’s not owed to the community but it’s owed to the MN-S,” Chartier said. 

“And so that’s totally wrong in law, I mean, provincial policy is correct. But MN-S is trying to consolidate everything into the head office and deprive the local community of their section 35 rights.”

Chartier contends the MN-S is being “underhanded” by requiring that citizens designate the Métis government to negotiate section 35 rights on their behalf. 

“There are many that refuse to apply because they don’t want to give their rights away to the MN-S. Others — because they want the cards — have signed up. So it’s not voluntary. If you want a card, you have to sign and there is no choice,” Chartier said. 

“Our democracy is at stake. Our right to existence as a people is at stake and our opportunity to secure our land rights and self government could be fleeting. It’s only there as long as the Liberal government stays in power.”

Under McCallum’s leadership the MN-S has focused on streamlining itself as a functioning government. He said Canada and the province need to take the MN-S more seriously as a partner government. For that to happen, the MN-S needs to prove that it can function on that level and represent the Métis people.

“I’m so proud of the registry in regards to what we’ve done in a very short period of time where 18,400 people have registered so far. That’s beautiful to see because the spirit of our people is awake, they’re awake, and they’re interested in what’s going on,” McCallum said.

“The days of ballot stuffing, the days of declaration forms where you don’t even know who’s voting, those days are gone. It’s very clear in regards to who the Métis are and what we use to define ourselves — but more importantly, registering and having their Métis cards, I love that,” McCallum said. 

Chartier said he felt at a disadvantage because he said he wasn’t given access to the voter registry, making it harder for him to get his message out.McCallum said this year’s elections are the fairest since he can remember.

“We have a system in place that’s very well set up and we can guarantee that it’s transparent and at the same time very specific in regards to who is Métis. That’s what we’ve been missing all these years,” McCallum said. 

“It would have been difficult if we still voted in questionable elections. That always happened in the past years. That will not happen anymore because legitimate Métis people are voting — because they hold the citizenship card.”

McCallum said the relationship with the province boils down to mutual trust and respect. He said that governments are working better with the MN-S now that it acts as a government body. 

“It’s not a bad relationship. It’s just a matter of trust. If you are the premier… after 25 years of MN-S sitting in limbo — with all the infighting that was going on… you’re never knowing what’s going to happen,” McCallum said.

“That’s why that relationship (with the province) is developing —  it’s not going to happen overnight. In four years we’ve developed a true partnership with the federal government and we have proven to other institutions and industry (that they can work with us).”

In regards to the duty to consult, McCallum wants a government-to-government relationship with the province rather than having companies negotiate separately with the Métis locals. 

“We’re responsible to our own government as a Métis government here in Saskatchewan to be able to develop a process to negotiate or to be able to work with as far as duty to consult and accommodate. That’s our job to do. People expect that of us,” McCallum said.

“The province hasn’t negotiated with us or communicated with us about what we need as a Métis nation. It’s only been the last four years that we’ve actually started discussing the importance of engagement with Métis people.”

Morin wants a decentralized Métis government and called the MN-S format “colonial.”

She said that if MN-S is currently negotiating on behalf of each of Métis locals, there’s been no reporting back to the communities on their behalf, nor have the locals given their authority to the Métis Nation Saskatchewan to do that. 

“I want to see the people’s vision be our vision. I believe that in the past four years, they’ve forgotten that the citizens are the rights holders of their communities. This past government has been all focused on centralization and more of a dictatorship style,” Morin said. 

“They’ve kind of overstepped their boundaries.”

McCallum said the locals are an essential part of the MN-S as a government forming the grassroots of the decision making process. McCallum conceded the pandemic has slowed things down. 

“Because of all the things that were going on, we weren’t able to address everything,” McCallum said. 

“We’ve done quite a bit of engagement with our people until COVID hit and we kind of slowed down. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a matter of fact, in regards to what has happened.  We continue to nurture along communications. We look forward to next term — if the people feel confident in me — those engagements will happen.”

Official results will be announced June 7.