Rules dispute amongst levels of Métis Nation – Saskatchewan holds up funding for Prince Albert

The Métis flag at Sask. Poly only stays up for Louis Riel Day. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

A dispute between different branches of government in the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan has led to funding for urban programming to be held out while the two sides sort out their issues.

Last week the three urban Métis locals for Prince Albert addressed a letter to Métis Nation-Saskatchewan president Glen McCallum alleging mistreatment at the hands of the regional director, Sherry McLennan. The letter was also sent to federal ministers, members of the provincial Métis council and the head of Métis Nation Canada.

It alleges, among other things, that the Prince Albert locals were “disenfranchised” without following due course, that the locals have left out of the Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples (UPIP) programming and of bullying by McLennan.

The letter also alleges a lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan.

Darlene McKay, the president of Local 7 and a former director of Western Region 2, said the issues her local is complaining about have been “going on for quite some time now.”

McKay was one of the three signatories to the letter, alongside Local 109 president Sheila Andrews and Local 269 president Pat Bellaisle.

“(McLennan) is not recognizing us and not giving us notice of any meetings. She’s not sharing anything with us,” McKay said.

“We’ve been in existence for many, many, many years and we have the membership. This is where the majority of people are, is in P.A. All we want to get across is that we want to be treated fairly and we want to be at the table. Our voice has to be heard.”

McLennan saw the letter herself. She told the Herald she’s only out to hold the locals accountable. She said there’s been a lack of transparency for too long. She alleged that Métis Nation – Saskatchewan members she spoke to in Prince Albert agree that “finally, they’re being held accountable.”

She said she considers some of the allegations to be slanderous and is considering legal action.

McLennan isn’t the only representative of Western Region 2 that saw the letter. Sunday afternoon the regional council, made up of other local presidents, convened an emergency meeting to discuss the contents of the letter and the ongoing dispute. The meeting was attended by presidents of seven locals of the region, including Kinistino, Duck Lake, St. Louis, Batoche, MacDowall and Marcelin.

Following a discussion, the board provided a statement outlining their response to the Prince Albert locals’ allegations.

The board denied the three locals had been dissolved or disenfranchised.

“We as a board welcome the presidents of those locals to come back to our table when they have complied with the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan constitution and our motions made at the regional level regarding what the requirements are for governance issues,” said Jeff Joanette, president of Métis Local 113 Marcelin.

Those issues include ensuring 30 days paid advertisers notice of an election or AGM — with receipts as proof, providing minutes of those meetings to the regional director, having an attendance list and membership list, or sign-in-list for those meetings with at least nine people in attendance and inviting the regional director to those meetings.

The measures, passed in a 2018 regional motion, they said, are designed to ensure that a vote “can’t be controlled” and that so everybody knows an election or AGM is taking place, directors said.

While it was codified in 2018, the directors said those provisions have been in place since day one.

“This is not new,” Joanette said.

He also addressed the UPIP funding. That money is provided by the federal government under a program established in 2017. It’s designed to provide funding for organizational capacity, programs and services, coalitions and research and innovation.

McLennan told the Herald the local region received $618,000 under that program. The funds were to be distributed on a per-capita basis to each of the locals.

“The three (Prince Albert) locals got substantially more than the rest of us,” Joanette said, adding that the money has been set aside and is sitting in a bank account waiting for the locals to become compliant with the constitution and the region’s policies.

“Even though those three locals were not compliant with the requirements, we set aside money for them,” he said.

“Our hope is when they comply with what we’ve asked, we’ll issue that money.”

He added that the region is able to account for “every penny in its books” from the time McLennan became regional director until the present day.

“Our books are open for an audit or a forensic audit, no questions asked.”

He said a registered letter was sent to the Prince Albert locals to “assist them into coming into compliance.” It did not receive a response.

‘We want them at the table,” he said. “We want them to have a voice.”

McKay disputed some of the region’s allegations.

She argued that nowhere in the constitution does it require the regional director to be invited to meetings, nor does it require elections and AGMs to be requiring 30 days notice through paid advertising.

She said she advertised for free on the community events page of paNOW.

“They don’t provide a receipt,” she said.

She said she didn’t see the point of buying paid advertising because she alleged the Herald “is a thing of the past” that no one buys anymore.

When asked about advertising in the Rural Roots, she said she did and it was free. She later corrected herself and said she ran it for free in the Shopper.

McKay insisted it ran and because the local is a non-profit they “didn’t have to pay.”

“We put it in there and we didn’t pay,” she repeated.

She added that the constitution doesn’t say anything about advertising an AGM.

“There’s no set policy on it,” she said. “Follow your constitution.”

McLennan said the policy was part of recent motions at the regional table. She said the local residents may not have been present for that vote.

McKay didn’t have a suggestion for what would happen next. The letter, she said, was only sent out due to the provincial body’s inaction.

“I don’t know the way forward,” she said. “This girl is putting herself in real jeopardy — but that’s me and that’s what I see.”

McKay said she doesn’t like media attention, but decided to speak up because, in her view, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan isn’t taking the issue seriously.

“That letter had to go out because Métis Nation-Saskatchewan hasn’t responded and isn’t doing anything. These are supposed to be our leaders,” she said.

“If they’re our leaders, they should be working for the best interests of the people. All of the people, not in the best interest of regional directors. We represent our locals as well.”