Garry Bailey of Fort Resolution has been acclaimed to another term as president of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation at its annual general meeting in Fort Smith.
The organization’s biannual elections took place on Nov. 20.
Following his return to the presidency, Bailey said the Metis nation is moving toward a deal with the federal and territorial governments on self-government, land and resources – a process that began in the mid-1990s.
“We’re getting close to final agreement – we’re moving forward,” said Bailey in a Nov. 22 news release. “There are tough issues ahead of us but we’ll take them on as a united nation. I’m optimistic that we’ll finish the final land and resources agreement soon. I’ve done this since I was a kid, and I’ll be happy to see it go forward.”
When contacted by The Hub, Bailey gave an estimate of when he expects the final agreement will be finished.
“We’re hoping within five years,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that’s got to take place. We’ve got to do our self-government, and the government has to go out and consult.”
Consultations by the government are the main reason for the length of such a process, he said. “It slows things down.”
Bailey said it is not uncommon for such negotiations to take a long time.
The Metis nation ratified an agreement-in-principle on July 31, 2015.
Bailey was acclaimed to a third two-year term as president which was his second time being acclaimed.
He has worked with the Metis nation since 1997, having been president of the Fort Resolution Metis Council for four years and community negotiator for Fort Resolution for eight years.
Currently, he also serves as the mayor of the Hamlet of Fort Resolution.
At the Metis nation’s annual general meeting – which ran from Nov. 14 to 20 – Betty Villebrun of Fort Smith was acclaimed to a third term as vice-president which was her second time being acclaimed.
Villebrun has worked with the Metis nation and Fort Smith Metis Council since 1999, and served as Metis nation president until 2012.
The only change on the executive was Paul Harrington of Hay River being elected as secretary-treasurer in a two-person race against former secretary-treasurer Danny Beck, also of Hay River.
Harrington was the first president of the Metis nation in 1996 when the organization was known as the South Slave Metis Tribal Council. In addition, he also served as the chief negotiator for the organization.
The annual general meeting attracted about 100 people.
Bailey said many resolutions were passed but he pointed to one in particular which could affect how members of the Metis nation select their leaders.
“One resolution came forward to start developing a new election process for universal voting which would be a big one,” he said. “Everybody would be able to vote for the executive, kind of like the legislative assembly.”
Currently, the executive is chosen by delegates at the annual general meeting.
“What we’re hoping to do now is getting ready to have universal voting so everybody can vote throughout the Northwest Territories, having polling stations and stuff like that,” said Bailey. “It’s part of our self-government things we’re going to be working on.”
The president hopes that a draft proposal on a new voting system will be ready in two years for an annual general meeting to vote on.