The Métis National Council has elected its first new leader in nearly two decades. Cassidy Caron, who previously served as youth minister with Métis Nation of B.C., became the first woman to take the role at a special sitting of the general assembly in Saskatoon.
“Big congratulations are in order for Cassidy Caron,” wrote one Facebook user. “I’m in awe of this amazing woman.”
Former president Clément Chartier had held the position since 2003, but in recent years there was internal turmoil with regional leaders calling for his resignation.
Earlier this week, the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) announced it was withdrawing from the council over ongoing disputes about Métis identity.
David Chartrand, president of the MMF says the decision came due to concerns that the Métis Nation of Ontario was allegedly accepting non-Métis citizens on its registry.
The Métis National Council also includes provincial Metis organizations from Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
David Parent, an assistant professor of Métis history at the University of Manitoba believes it is a historic moment.
“What we’re seeing right now is the end of a political order that has existed for a good 30 years, but also the beginning of some very interesting, yet to be had conversations about Métis history and society,” said Parent when reached by phone.
A letter from MMF president David Chartrand to Chartier was posted on the MNC’s website and social media pages on Tuesday evening.
In the letter announcing the MMF’s withdrawal, Chartrand wrote, “we view this not as MMF leaving MNC. Rather, it is the MNC that has abandoned the MMF and the true Métis Nation.”
Over the last few years, both Chartrand and Chartier have been warning that MNO is opening the floodgates to an “eastern invasion” and granting Métis citizenship to thousands of people living in eastern Ontario.
“I think MNC has lost its legitimacy, period, by allowing Ontario in,” said Chartrand in an interview with APTN News on Wednesday. “I think by bringing in those people that are not Métis, they’ve become Congress of Aboriginal People number two.”
Chartrand also thanked Chartier for his 18 years as president of MNC. Chartrand says one of the conditions in court was that Chartier was not allowed to provide a “farewell speech.”
With files from the Canadian Press