SASKATOON — The Métis National Council has elected its first new leader in nearly two decades.
“Today we begin a new era — one of accountability, transparency and governing on behalf of the entire Métis Nation,” Cassidy Caron said Thursday after she became the first woman to take the role.
Caron, who previously served as youth minister with the Métis Nation of British Columbia, was elected at a special sitting of the council’s general assembly in Saskatoon. She has roots in the historic Saskatchewan Métis communities of Batoche and St. Louis and is working on a master’s degree in community development at the University of Victoria.
Former president Clément Chartier had held the position since 2003, but in recent years there was internal turmoil with regional leaders who called for his resignation. Chartier thanked supporters in a final address on Wednesday.
“I believe in my heart in the long run the integrity of the Métis Nation will remain intact,” Chartier said before leaving the assembly.
“Without turmoil usually success doesn’t come.”
The national council had not held a general assembly or meeting of the board of governors since 2018.
Much of the internal conflict is rooted in allegations that the Métis Nation of Ontario was accepting non-Métis citizens on its registry. The organization has pushed back on those claims.
An Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruling earlier this year ordered this week’s special assembly to elect a new president and resolve the disputes with the Ontario organization.
During the two-day meeting the council passed a resolution to create an expert panel to review the Métis Nation of Ontario’s registry process and study the history of seven communities.
However, on the eve of the meeting, the Manitoba Métis Federation announced it was withdrawing from the council. David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba federation, said the decision came over concerns about the Métis Nation of Ontario.
The Métis National Council also includes provincial Métis organizations from Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. It was formed in 1983 to support the recognition and promotion of Métis people as a distinct cultural group with their own governments and needs.
Caron ran against Gerald Morin, a former president of the national council and Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, and Dean Gladue, a former Mountie who has also worked with the Métis Nation British Columbia.
All candidates spoke about the national council being on the cusp of change and in need of unity. They agreed that a strong council is important to successfully negotiate with Ottawa, especially following the Liberal government’s commitment to renewing relationships on a nation-to-nation basis.
Caron told the assembly the national council has the potential to be a force for good to advance the aspirations of Métis citizens and governments.
She committed to financial transparency, timely communication, and accountability to the national assembly and board of governors.
“We have so much to be proud of and we have so much to look forward to,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2021.
— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg
The Canadian Press