Métis Nation-Sask. voter eligibility rules not subject to judicial review, court says

Earlier this year, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan amended its election act, limiting voting eligibility to those who are registered Métis citizens. A candidate in the upcoming election called for a judicial review, but a court has ruled the amendment isn't subject to such a review.

MN-S amended election act earlier this year, limiting voting eligibility to registered Métis citizens

Clem Chartier, who is running in the upcoming Métis Nation-Saskatchewan election, applied for a judicial review of an amendment to the organization's election act. The presiding judge ruled the MN-S eligibility rules aren't subject to such a review. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

The Métis Nation-Saskatchewan's voter eligibility rules aren't subject to judicial review, a Court of Queen's Bench decision says.

Earlier this year, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) amended its election act, limiting voting eligibility to those who are registered Métis citizens.

Those who are not yet registered but started the process before March 31 of this year are also eligible to vote in this month's election for leadership of the MN-S, which represents Métis people across the province.

In the past, any Métis person over the age of 16 who was a resident of Saskatchewan was eligible to vote. 

Clem Chartier — who is running for presidency of the MN-S in the May 29 election — applied for a judicial review of the change.

In court, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan "vigorously" opposed that application, on the grounds the amendment wasn't subject to judicial review, given its status and form. 

The presiding judge decided not to weigh in on whether or not the MN-S was an autonomous government, leaving that "for another day and another case."

Instead, the judge determined the MN-S was a voluntary organization and therefore not subject to judicial review.

MN-S also argued the amendment didn't violate the organization's constitution, a point the presiding judge agreed with. 

Chartier and those who brought the matter before the courts also raised concerns around procedural fairness — they argued some were not allowed to vote on the amendment — but the judge found MN-S followed its procedures appropriately. 

In a press release published by the Métis Nationalist Movement Saskatchewan, Chartier said the amendment placed severe limits on who can cast a ballot in the upcoming elections. 

"While the court ruled as it did, it is nevertheless morally wrong and a large-scale disenfranchisement of thousands of Métis who have become discounted by our Métis government," Chartier's statement said. 

"While many of them may not have chosen to vote, they are now deprived of even the right to make that choice." 

In an interview, Chartier said he supports the MN-S registering as many people as possible, but is opposed to only allowing those who are registered to vote. 

While he takes issue with the way the MN-S is requiring people to vote he said the biggest concern he had with the process was how quickly it was implemented — just months before an election.

The MN-S declined a request for comment, on the grounds it is in the midst of an election. The request for comment was directed to MN-S electoral officer Gwen LaFond, who has not yet responded.

Chartier faces three other candidates for MN-S president in the May 29 election: Karen LaRocque, Glen Hector McCallum and Mary Ann Morin.

A full list of candidates is on the MN-S website.

Voters can cast their ballots in the MN-S election at regional returning offices until May 21. Advance and mobile polls for the election will operate on May 22.

Voting on the election day — May 29 — is open between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. A list of voting locations is also available on the MN-S website.