By Shari Narine
Voting members of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) have ushered in a regime change, with incumbent Dwight Dorey out and Robert Bertrand in as national chief.
It was disappointment over the lack of leverage gained after the Daniels’ decision came down earlier this year that led to Dorey’s ouster. CAP delegates at the annual general meeting on Sept. 30 also made the decision to return to the organization’s original name after only seven months as the Indigenous Peoples Assembly of Canada.
Bertrand, who leaves the position of President Grand Chief of the CAP affiliate Alliance Autochtone du Quebec Inc., says a major plank in his platform was to build on the Daniels’ decision.
In April, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Métis and non-status Indians were a federal responsibility. CAP bills itself as the national voice representing the interests of Métis, status Indians living off-reserve, non-status Indigenous people and southern Inuit.
“I think (people) thought that Daniels should have been more at the forefront …. They were getting a little restless about not engaging with the federal government,” said Bertrand. “I think they sort of thought this was lacking with the last national chief.”
Bertrand believes that having the Daniels decision as a priority should have been a given for CAP, considering CAP leader Harry Daniels launched the legal action in 1999. But since the decision was rendered, Bertrand contends that other organizations have taken over the charge on negotiations and taken the credit.
“There were so many other Métis organizations that were there … basking in the glory, but where were these organizations 17, 18 years ago when the hard work had to be done?” said Bertrand.
“And CAP, we should be carrying the ball on Daniels because it’s our baby.”
Bertrand, who served as a Liberal MP in Quebec from 1993 to 2004, sees that experience as a valuable in dealing with the federal government on this – and other – issues.
Bertrand will be reaching out to the Métis National Council to discuss how to move forward on representing the groups of people named in the Daniels decision.
“If we can come to some understanding of who (the MNC) represent, who we represent, I think it would be in the best interest of the Aboriginal population across Canada,” he said.
In provinces where there are Métis governments, Bertrand says CAP representing non-status Indians and Métis governments representing the Métis is a possibility.
CAP, after recently giving the green light to affiliates in Alberta and British Columbia, will have representation in every province.
Bertrand said he will also work to bring CAP’s status to the same level as MNC, the Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
“We’re starting maybe back from the rest of the pack, but I think if we do our homework, meet with the people that are on the Hill, meet with the ministers and these people, and get our point across constructively ... I think it’ll take time, but I think CAP will find its rightful place in the Aboriginal movement,” said Bertrand.
And returning to the organization’s original name will only help, he said, because the name is recognized in Ottawa and across the country.
Bertrand said the membership voted against the name change to IPAC because it was a “top down decision” made by Dorey to embrace the term “Indigenous” over “Aboriginal” without consulting with the grassroots.
Kim Beaudin, who ran for national chief against Dorey in 2015, was elected as Vice-National Chief. Beaudin is the president of the Aboriginal Affairs Coalition of Saskatchewan, a CAP affiliate. He has been critical of past national chiefs.
Dorey was elected as national chief after Betty Anne Lavallee stepped down with one year left in her term.
Brad Darch, media liaison with CAP, said election numbers would not be released.
Caption: Robert Bertrand, the new national chief for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, has spent the past five years as President Grand Chief of the Alliance Autochtone du Quebec Inc. Credit: aaqnaq.com