A judge has upheld amendments limiting who can vote for the next executive of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S).
In an interim ruling brought down May 14, Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench Justice R.W. Elson said the decisions made during this past February’s Métis National Legislation Assembly (MNLA) “cannot be the subject of judicial review.”
At the MNLA, amendments were made to the Saskatchewan Métis Elections Act 2007 and the MN-S Citizenship Act 1999 limiting voting to those with citizenship cards or letters proving they had made application for their citizenship cards prior to March 20, 2021.
Voters also have to be 16 years of age or older and have lived in the province for six months.
Prior to the MNLA amendment, anyone who claimed to be Métis and met the age and residency requirements could vote.
The 2016 Canadian census claims approximately 58,000 Métis live in Saskatchewan, and while the MN-S estimates that number is closer to 70,000, according to chief electoral officer Gwen Lafond there are about 16,000 registered Métis voters.
The MNLA amendments were challenged by Métis National Council president Clement Chartier, who is also running for the position of president for the MN-S.
Chartier was joined in his call for the judicial review by Darlene McKay, Jim Durocher, Gail Johnson and Sheila Andrews.
In a short six-point court order in advance of the full written decision to be released this coming Wednesday, Elson wrote, “I should further advise that… the court’s judgment will also address the question as to whether the respondent (defendant) incorrectly or unreasonably interpreted the provision of its Constitution when it enacted the challenged amendments in 2021. Applying the reasonableness standard of review, I am satisfied that the respondent acted reasonably.”
Elson also added that he was “not satisfied that the respondent acted unfairly when it passed the amendments in the manner it did.”
Chartier anticipated that the issue would not be open to judicial review.
“I think it will come down actually to more of a technical legal issue as opposed to a justice issue,” Chartier told Windspeaker.com as he awaited the court’s decision.
Chartier is concerned that those allowed to vote now are only a small number compared to the election of four years ago. At that time, there were anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 eligible Saskatchewan Métis voters. About 5,000 ballots were cast.
Chartier said the ruling has resulted in “a large-scale disenfranchisement of thousands of Métis who have become discounted by our Metis government.”
Both Karen LaRocque and Mary Ann Morin, also challenging incumbent Glen McCallum for president, believe that the voting should be opened to more than just those who hold Métis cards. They both claim their beliefs are supported by the Constitution.
As far as McCallum is concerned, the MNLA “is our supreme government. When it gives marching orders we have to listen, and if I can’t listen to that I might as well stay home. I take orders from our Métis Nation Legislative Assembly as we move forward. They pass resolutions in regards to everybody having their Métis card before they can vote and they made the decision to have the election and there’s no way I can turn my back on that.”
McCallum believes the move to allow only those with Métis cards, or those who have their application letters, to vote does away with the bad voting practises of 15 to 20 years ago when, he alleges, ballot stuffing and intimidation occurred, as well as declaration forms made that caused a lack of clarity about who was voting.
“The rules are in place now for an honest election,” said McCallum.
Voting has begun and runs every day until May 21 in the 12 regions. The general election is on May 29.