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Full steam ahead for Métis Council
New president optimistic about future

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012

Following a turbulent period in which the Hay River Métis Council experienced various difficulties, the road that lies ahead for the local group is more positive than ever.

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Wally Schumann, new president of the Hay River Métis Council, wants to focus on bringing the Métis community together and strengthening ties. - Myles Dolphin/NNSL photo

Newly-elected president Wally Schumann, who previously held the position of Vice-President, won the Oct. 28 election held during the Métis Council Annual General Assembly.

Approximately 75 members of the local Métis community, out of roughly 400 living in Hay River, showed up to vote for a total of eight positions.

Four new members were elected to the board, while four others retained their positions.

Schumann, who also runs a sign manufacturing business, focused his electoral campaign on uniting the Métis community, and involving as many of them as possible in Métis affairs.

“We’re close to 400 members here in Hay River and I wanted to bring in all the people who are Métis, but who are not normally involved in our issues,” he said.

“I want to bring everyone together as a community and be a part of the Hay River community, too. People should be able to walk down the street and be proud of being part of the Métis association.”

Schumann is especially excited about a recent meeting with the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, which held a public hearing in Yellowknife and Ft. Smith on Oct. 1-3 – the first of its kind on Métis identity in Canada. As a result, the Northwest Territories Métis Nation (NWTMN) is one step closer to signing a deal that has been in the works for more than 15 years.

According to the NWTMN website, a framework agreement between the GNWT and Canada to commence negotiations on land, resources and self-government was signed 1996.

More than a decade and a half later, both parties are still negotiating an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) on those matters.

“Once this AIP is reached, the Parties will begin negotiation of a final agreement on land and resources and negotiation of a self-government agreement,” it states.

Schumann said the AIP stage is finally within sight.

“We’ve been negotiating for 16 years now, and we’re just about at the AIP stage to sign off with the federal government,” he said.

“We’re a unique, distinct group of Métis in Canada because of that.”

Despite some setbacks within the Hay River Métis Council over the past two years, Schumann is positive about the future.

“We’ve got a great board here,” he said.

“Everyone is positive and they all want to get going on projects.”

Provided the board votes in favor of it, Schumann would like to implement a portfolio system not unlike the one used at the legislative assembly, in which members are responsible for particular areas of the community.

“That way people aren’t running around after everything, and we can focus on what we want to do,” he said.

One particular area Schumann will focus on is education, and the council has already set aside $10,000 to help support local programs such as the Aboriginal Head Start program, the École Boréale Aboriginal Camp, and others.

“This would be a start as education is the road to success and achievement; we need to be more involved at the local level in contributing to the future of all our children,” Schumann’s campaign pamphlet noted.

He also wants to make Métis elders one of council’s key components, by creating regular meetings with them and providing them with an opportunity to share their knowledge and ideas with the board.

Mayor Andrew Cassidy gave Schumann a congratulatory call following the election, and looks forward to partnering with the Métis Council in the future.

“Each organization offers a different perspective, talent and resources,” he said.

“It’s important as a community government to foster these relationships, to keep in touch, and find out what’s going on. They have different programs, projects, and various funding sources that we may or may not have, so we need to work together to strengthen our community.”

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