Indigenous

Métis National Council's 1st female leader leaves door open for Manitoba Métis Federation to return

The new president of the Métis National Council (MNC) says she would welcome the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) back to her organization.

Cassidy Caron, 29, replaces Clement Chartier, who spent 18 years as MNC president

Cassidy Caron was elected as the first female president of the Métis National Council last week. (Matt LeMay)

The new president of the Métis National Council (MNC) says she would welcome the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) back to her organization.

The MMF announced last Wednesday it was leaving the organization, on the eve of the first MNC general assembly in three years, where Cassidy Caron was elected president. 

"Though I respect their right to withdraw . . . there will always be a place for them at this table," said Caron from the MNC's head office in Ottawa. 

"Métis citizens in Manitoba are our relatives, they're our family, and we will always continue to look out for them."

Caron, 29, was elected at the Saskatoon meeting on the third ballot with 25 of 40 votes from delegates at the general assembly. She takes over from Clement Chartier, who was president of the organization for 18 years.

She said it's an honour to serve as president. 

"I know there's been a lot of Indigenous women who have been in leadership positions, and that has really laid the foundation for me," she said.

"It's time for our matriarchs to rise."

MNC members excited for new leadership

The remaining governing members of MNC had warm wishes for Caron.

"Her election was a very good day for the nation and, as we move forward in unity, I believe our future as a Métis Nation looks bright," wrote Glen McCallum, president of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, in an emailed statement to CBC News. 

Lissa Dawn-Smith, acting president of the Métis Nation British Columbia, said they were excited to have a national president from B.C.

"She has a lot of experience, and she'll lead in an inclusive manner," she said.

"It's just refreshing that we have new leadership there." 

Métis Nation of Alberta did not respond by time of publishing. In a Facebook post, MNA President Audrey Poitras congratulated Caron on breaking the glass ceiling as the first female president. 

Métis Nation of Ontario president Margaret Froh said Caron's election is "giving a lot of people hope." 

"We talk about the importance of women and the importance of youth," she said.

"I think our assembly showed real leadership in electing her to this new role."

Sharing a border

Last Wednesday, the MMF cited membership issues involving the Métis Nation Ontario (MNO) as the reason for its withdrawal.

It said in a news release that at its 2019 annual general assembly, a resolution was passed that the MMF should withdraw from the MNC "should MNO continue to be allowed a seat at the governance table while they – by their own admission – have nearly 80 per cent non-Métis Nation Citizens in their registry."

Froh said, "We share a border with the MMF; we have lots of citizens within the MNO that have kinship and familial ties to Métis in Manitoba.

"One thing that is very clear is that politics will never change those facts at all. But that relationship really does matter."

MMF President David Chartrand said Caron will have "a hell of a time" leading a group that doesn't include the Métis of Manitoba. 

Caron said she was aware of the concerns about citizenship and "really understanding who are the Métis."

"There was no openness to have the conversation prior to the Manitoba Métis Federation walking away from the MNC," she said.

"Our national assembly last week passed a motion to direct us at the MNC to establish an objective, investigative panel of experts to assess and sort through the critical information on the subject, and bring back recommendations to the board of governors and the national assembly for that decision."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Renée Lilley is a reporter for CBC Indigenous. She is a recent University of Winnipeg grad with a BA in rhetoric and communications. She has reported on radio and online news in her hometown of Portage la Prairie. She is also a proud Métis mama of four girls.

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