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23 December, 2007

The Hon. Stéphane Dion
Leader, the Liberal Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
81 Metcalfe Street, Suite 400
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 6M8

By e-mail and fax

Fax (613) 235-7208

Dear Stéphane Dion,

I write to you with a heavy heart and mixed emotions today. Perhaps it is best to begin with an introduction.

My name is Jim Durocher, although often people call me simply Jimmy D.

I've been involved in the Metis movement in Saskatchewan for almost thirty years. I twice served as an executive member of the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan and for eight years as its president. I'm a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and a life long active Liberal. I am proud of my record on both fronts.

In 1983, I stood as the federal Liberal candidate in Battlefords-Meadow Lake and as the provincial Liberal candidate in 1985. I currently serve as CEO of Saskatchewan Native Rentals, the largest Aboriginal property management company in the province.

My partner, Wanda McCaslin, is a legal research officer at the Native Law Centre of Canada and among other things editor of Justice As Healing, Indigenous Ways; Writings on Community Peace Making and Restorative Justice.

I was born and raised in northern Saskatchewan and know the area like the back of my hand, which brings me to the purpose of my letter to you.

I'm appalled — and there is no other expression I can use — at what I observe unfolding in my beloved northern homeland of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River.

By way of background, the North has been for decades on the receiving end of colonial attitudes and unforgiveable arrogance coming from the south and centre of our country. In my life I have seen many examples. We have had candidates selected and foisted upon the riding. We have had nomination meetings held outside the riding itself. I could go on, but I'm sure you are an intelligent man and understand something of colonialism and racism.

The central point is that the people of this riding resent, and I personally resent mightily, the attitude of certain southerners that they know what's best for our riding.

I've followed with keen interest the race unfolding for Gary Merasty's old seat for several months. In fact, this year I was asked to chair our major, annual Remembrance Day celebration held in Ile-a-laCrosse on November 11th. During the social event afterwards, I introduced the two candidates running for the Liberal nomination, John Dorion and David Orchard. I also chaired a Metis veterans' event in Prince Albert about a month ago which featured David Orchard as a guest speaker. I observed the reaction to his presentation and afterwards interviewed him in my office.

I have noted with interest the number of memberships being sold in the party and the grassroots' interest being kindled, not to mention that being expressed by chiefs, mayors and residents alike. Significantly, the vast majority of these memberships appear to be purchased by Metis and First Nations people. One can almost start to feel a rebirth stirring in the Liberal party in Saskatchewan and, heaven knows, it is long overdue.

So, I was stunned to read in my local paper that all of this is about to be shoved aside in Desnethé and a candidate imposed by the elite powerbrokers of our party.

To say that I am angry is an understatement, to say I am insulted conveys only a part of what I wish to say.

My people know in their bones about colonialism and I believe that you as a French-Canadian Québecer should be able to understand something of that.

I really do object to the idea that Ralph Goodale, sitting in Regina, can attempt to impose a sitting NDP MLA on our riding and expect the people to swallow that and play along.

There is an Indian Affairs mindset and this is it to the core, the old Indian Agent mentality we all know too much about. The idea that "we" know better than "you," the people, what is good for you. It would be too much to expect those poor people who shelled out their precious $25 to join the Liberal party to be able to select their candidate. Mr. Goodale will choose one for us.

Let me tell you something bluntly. If you impose Joan Beatty, the Liberals will lose this riding. How do you think Ms. Beatty will be able to draw votes from the roughly 50% of the voting population that inhabits the white farm belt? How do you expect her to fare on the west side of the riding?

If I may ask, who exactly is it that you get your information about our riding from? This is a riding that is winnable by the Liberal party. It cannot be won by imposing a candidate in the middle of a functioning democratic process. The resulting controversy will blow her right out of the race and hand the riding to Mr. Harper.

If the democratic process is short circuited — and for no good reason other than the ambition of one provincial politician — then I can assure you that our people will stay home, they will give up on the hopeful process we have watched unfold here in the past months. They will simply not show up to vote.

Last time the riding was won by Gary Merasty by 67 votes and this with an all out united effort by the Metis and First Nations alike. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that many constituents were not happy that all their effort ended up for nought after a few short months when Gary Merasty stepped down to take a job in the corporate sector. Our riding for many years has not had a strong voice helping us deal with the overwhelming array of issues our people face every day.

If this travesty occurs in Desnethé, if you, Sir, lose sight of the basic proposition that the people of the north, be they my people, white, or First Nation, have the basic right to select their own candidate, unless some emergency, I personally will not vote Liberal. For those who know my history that is a significant statement. I suspect many others will in fact vote Conservative or stay home.

If you allow yourself to be led around by politicians with their own axes to grind, you will, I believe, live to regret it profoundly. I suspect how you handle this situation could have a major influence on your leadership, your career and the future of our party.

I urge you to recall words you yourself have been quoted as uttering about integrity, about citizens' rights, about respect for our democratic processes and institutions and then act accordingly.

I strongly believe heads should roll in your inner circle over this, but I am writing in the hope that we don't have to lose this seat for you to find that out.

In closing, may I say that I regret this letter and I regret the necessity for it.

I would appreciate an early reply.

I am, sincerely yours,

Jim Durocher (Jimmy D.)
CEO Saskatchewan Native Rentals
1940 Ave C North
Saskatoon, SK
S7L 1M1
Tel 306-653-0384 (Office)
Cell 306-222-4144

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