POLITICS

Judge orders Saskatchewan Metis group to hold assembly before June 19

04/06/2015 07:43 EDT | Updated 06/06/2015 05:59 EDT
SASKATOON - A Saskatchewan judge has ruled that a provincial Metis organization must hold a long-delayed legislative assembly before June 19.

Justice Brian Scherman says in his ruling that the Provincial Metis Council's arguments that it can't hold a meeting of its legislative assembly sooner are "without defensible justification or reason."

The Court of Queen's Bench judge says there is urgent need for an assembly to occur, noting there hasn't been one in four years.

The provincial council has been locked in a political battle between Metis Nation-Saskatchewan president Robert Doucette, who petitioned the court to order the legislative assembly meeting, and the group's vice president, Gerald Morin.

Sherman rejected arguments by what he called "the Morin faction" that more time is needed to prepare for a meeting, and agreed with Doucette that there was a need for the court to intervene.

The federal government halted funding to the group last fall because of its failure to hold an assembly, forcing the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan to close its doors in Saskatoon last week.

"Every day the suspension of funding continues causes more harm and increases the risk the fund will not be restored," Scherman wrote in Tuesday's ruling.

"The old adage that justice delayed is justice denied is apt here."

Scherman had ordered back in December that the provincial council set a date for a legislative assembly. The council met in January and set September 2015 for the meeting, voting down a motion by the "Doucette faction" to hold a meeting at the end of March.

The judge wrote that the council claimed extra time was needed for local organizations to elect presidents that would vote at the meeting. He said the council also claimed that since there hadn't been a meeting in years, extra time was necessary to prepare documents, prepare a budget and take further steps to ensure accountability.

Morin has previously said that several provincial council members were concerned about an overhaul of the group's governance structure and that Doucette has been secretive.

Scherman wrote that the steps to prepare for the meeting could have been completed much sooner than September, and he set out a time frame for them to be completed before June 19.

He concluded that court costs incurred by Doucette would be paid by the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan, stating his application was for the benefit of the organization and its membership.