23 December, 2007
The Hon. Stéphane Dion
Leader, the Liberal Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
81 Metcalfe Street, Suite 400
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Tel 306-653-0384 (Office)