Minister Bennett was accompanied to the meeting by Gerald Morin, Vice-President of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, Dutch Lerat, a Vice-Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and officials from her department. Joining her at the meeting were Georgina Jolibois, the local Member of Parliament, Chester Herman, MNS Regional Representative and Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council.
In a preparatory meeting prior to the arrival of Minister Bennett, La Loche Métis representatives discussed both short and long terms issues, priorities and solutions which were later presented to the Minister. Joined by the other representatives, they also addressed the longstanding issue of the Métis boarding school at Ile a la Crosse which was excluded from the settlement of residential school claims, as well as s.35 constitutional rights and the recent pledge by the Liberal Party to engage in a process of reconciliation with the Métis Nation centred on s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
These subject matters were discussed in great detail in the meeting with the Minister who made a firm commitment to ensure that the Métis in La Loche would be fully engaged as solutions are sought to deal with the social and economic issues discussed in the meeting, both in the short and long term. This was well received by the Métis representatives of La Loche who indicated that they are prepared to work collaboratively with the leadership of the Clearwater River Dene Nation as well as the municipal council. Chief Ted Clark of CRDN also attended the meeting to indicate the willingness of CRND to work with the Métis community of La Loche.
Minister Bennett assured the participants that she and her department would continue to engage in the process and assist the Métis community of La Loche in its initiatives to deal with the after effects of the tragic events of January 22nd and appointed a contact person for them to deal with. She also committed to work with the larger Métis community of northwest Saskatchewan on the Ile a la Crosse boarding school and the s.35 reconciliation matters, including a willingness to attend a meeting in Ile a la Crosse of former boarding school students being planned for the spring of 2016.
Press Release from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada:
Statement by Minister Bennett Following her Visit to La Loche and Clearwater River, Saskatchewan