Thursday, December 27, 2007

Metis for David Orchard

If you were wondering just how much support David Orchard has from the aboriginal leaders in his bid to run as a candidate in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, I've decided to post an open letter to Stephane Dion.

I'm again asking for more support from all of you out there that stop by this little ole blog to help in our larger-by-the-day Liberals for David Orchard campign. Write a letter, send an email, join his facebook group.

December 23, 2007

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

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 Métis movement in Saskatchewan for almost thirty years. I twice served as an executive member of the Métis 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 Métis 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 Métis 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 Métis 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


Walks With Coffee said...

I'm also of aboriginal descent, but not sure why I would get involved in a decision that is primarily either a riding decision or a leader's decision?

Cannot Mr. Orchard speak to his case as can Mr. Goodale? Would not the indigenous community be able to proudly support either candidate?

I don't know, I'm just asking?



James Curran said...

Well, it appears that the community is speaking. This is the second major letter I've posted.

David has spoken to Ottawa and they are well aware of his position. What this riding is asking for is an open nomination with no appointments. Nobody is asking for David to be appointed - including David.

Let the people of the riding speak for themselves. If Ms. Beatty would like to cancel her NDP membership and join the other two candidates as Liberal nomination candidates, then so be it.

Both the gentlemen in the race would welcome the challenge. We're also short on time here folks. March 17 is around the corner.


Maudie Bones said...

Is there any point in sending a letter to Ralph Goodale? (I've written one to Dion, suggesting the best way forward would be for him to stay out of this race and let democracy take its course.)
Your advice will be appreciated as I live in BC and am out of the loop when it comes to Sask. politics.
I've long admired David Orchard's integrity and determination and am surprised that Goodale could see this very decent man as a problem or threat. Have they ever sat down together and compared notes? Could somebody acceptable to both men maybe arrange for this to happen? Dion may not have wanted that former astronaut (Mark Garneau?) as a candidate but listened to good advice and decided to make him an overture that was successful. So why can't the same reasonableness apply in this case, between Goodale and Orchard?
If the men involved in this dilemma can't put our country first and resolve the problem fairly, what an argument it will be for getting more women into government !!!

R said...

Hey James,

I was just wondering, is it Orchard's opposition to same sex marriage, his crusading against abortion rights or his positions against free trade that lead you to think he should be our candidate in Sask?

James Curran said...

I would send off a note to the Honourable Member. Couldn't hurt. Also the president of the Sask. Liberal Party, Senator David Smith, Mark Marissen and Nancy Girard.

If this party truly wants to win seats in the west, David Orchard will go a long way to achieving that goal. One seat in the province of Saskatchewan is hardly acceptable in my opinion.

James Curran said...

And you think David Orchard is the only Liberal to think that way? We are the party of open thought. We are the party of freedom of speech. Because his opinion is different than yours, does that mean he should not express them?

What this is about is winning seats in a province we can't win any in. Winning seats in the west where David could utilize his machine to help obtain that goal. What this is about is soliciting a team player that can raise money at a rapid pace and at the grassroots level, which this party claims to be having trouble doing.

Your intellect - or lack thereof - clearly shows that you do not put the party first.

BTW, in case your were wondering, I'm Pro-choice, Pro-Same-Sex, and I'm not totally happy with the Free Trade system.

I, like David, am also a strong believer in Aboriginal rights and freedoms, a strong voice for a greener Canada, strong believer in a sustainable economy.

You failed to mention David's good traits. For instance, he's one of the very few farmers in Sask (or Canada for that matter) that grow totally organic crops. That he owns 2000 acres of land in the riding he wishes to contest. That his maternal grandparents are burried in that same riding. That he was arrested for standing up for native rights in that very same riding. That he would like to keep the Canadian Wheat Board instead of dismantling it by stealth. You know, that sort of stuff.

Walks With Coffee said...

... debating the man and his passions, much more constructive than "let us do what we want and the voters be damned" debate.

Who with what views will Sask accept? Who knows best: the riding, the honourable Mr. Goodale, or the honourable Mr. Dion?

FYI: I'm pro-fair trade, believe life begins with brain-waves (so not sure if that means I'm pro-life or pro-choice), all in for sustainable enviro-development, pro-aborginal rights, and hardly know David Orchard.

I have some ties to Sask, and still think most of this is your business.

Go figure!



R said...


Two things:

1. David Orchard is in no way the answer to us becoming relevant in Western Canada again. His "organisation" is great in a leadership or nomination context, it is irrelevant in a general election (or in this case, by-election). You want proof: Orchard finished fourth in Prince Albert in the 2000 election. Not even close. Just over 10% of the vote. There is no reason to believe he is in any way capable of winning any election anywhere other than in the safest of seat. This ain't it.

2. I believe the Liberal Party must have some core beliefs if we are to remain relevant as a party. If you agree with that statement then surely we must be the party of women's choice and same-sex marriage. That doesnt mean that people who disagree with these views can't support us but these views are core to who we are as Liberals. David Orchard isnt that. He doesnt just believe in pro-life and anti-same sex marriage, he has actively campaigned against both issues and used his great organisation that you mention to try to overturn Liberal positions. Thats different from merely believing in a position - HE IS A PRO-LIFE AND ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST - - THAT'S NOT MY LIBERAL PARTY. The fact that other Liberals agree with him, so what. Those MPs (and we all know who they are) are part of the problem with the current Liberal caucus, not part of the solution to rebuilding the party. Why would Dion stake his fortunes on a guy is antithetical to the party we should be building?

In the end this is Dion's decision but my hope is he brings on the NDP Cabinet minister who by all accounts is a strong local progressive candidate who will hold the riding for us.

James Curran said...

As opposed to where we are now n the west? I'll take my chances with David.

I'm not going to comment on your pro-life comments. I'll let David handle that himself.

Appointing an NDP candidate in a riding where the NDP finished 6500 votes behind is hardly the answer for Desenthe. We need to steal the vote from the Conservative base. David is the person that will do that.

Marjaleena Repo said...

"R" also writes: "Orchard finished fourth in Prince Albert in the 2000 election. Not even close. Just over 10% of the vote."

Orchard, for the record, received the highest vote of any Progressive Candidate in Saskatchewan and the exact same percentage, ca 12.5%, as the party received nationally. This is the context that R. chooses to ignore.

R said...

You miss my point. Your argument in favour of Orchard is largely predicated on a notion that the Liberal Party is better off with him than without him. On both political and principled basis, I think think the opposite is true.

David Orchard has shown that he cannot win a seat in Western Canada. He has run twice and been destroyed both times. His organisation is powerful in a leadership context but useless come a general election.

In terms of principles, I don't think Orchard is a liberal at all (note the small 'l'). On both social and economic issues, he is far outside the Liberal Party that I, and I would argue Stephane Dion is trying to build. He is certainly not the ideological basis around which we should or could rebuild the party in the West.

The only argument in favour of Orchard is that Dion "owes" him. Without Orchard, Dion would not be leader today. That is true beyond a shadow of a doubt. If Dion loses the 150 delegates that Orchard delivered to him, he is closer to Dryden than he is to Kennedy on the first ballot. That having been said, Dion didn't promise him a thing in exchange for his support (as far as I know...) and thus there is no argument why Orchard is "owed" this particular seat that we NEED to hold onto as a party and Dion needs to hold onto as leader.

I have nothing against Orchard as a guy. In fact, I have never met the man before but if he didnt help Dion win the leadership, he wouldn't even be a possibility for the nomination which tells me he shouldn't be now either.

Marjaleena Repo said...

(I posted this earlier, but it vanished, so here comes again.)

Good grief, "R!" You write that David Orchard is "A PRO-LIFE AND ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST,"which is absolutely false.
Do you have proof for such a slanderous statement or do you just like to snipe and character assassinate from the safety of your anonymity? Does this kind of behaviour have anything to do with "Liberal principles" that you so loudly espouse in your comment?

Marjaleena Repo said...

Here you go again, "R", courageously adding more falsehoods about David Orchard to this blog, while hiding your identity!

Will you please let all know WHEN and WHERE did David Orchard "run twice?" (Prince Albert in 2000 and...?)

What will you come up with next?

R said...

Gee, I don't know where I got such an idea (please note what riding he hoped to run in when this was written - so much for him having been promised the riding he now claims was always his)'s no secret that Orchard is and has been anti-same sex marriage...

Marjaleena Repo said...

"R", you probably should take Kevin Libin's writings in the National Post, the one you refer to and others, with a grain of salt, as he, too, like you, makes up stories. If that's your "source", you have been duped.

What can be said about David Orchard is that he has been neither an advocate of same-sex marriage nor an ardent opponent. In this erritory you will find most Canadians — and Liberals.

What about Orchard having "ran twice?" Are you still researching it?

Walks With Coffee said...

The fact this debate has a Metis connection interests me and keeps me reading.

The fact that facts get distorted and misrepresented is reflective of politics and journalism in this country, and that just ticks me off. Our fifth estate is in sad sad shape.

The fact that this is a "national" democratic mandate versus a "local" democratic mandate is always a puzzle and so interesting to watch and learn… but few voters care.

In all cases, why publicly damage either candidate so badly that neither can win before the issue is even settled internally within the LPoC? Of couse the national post can be expected to make a partisan attack against the goings on within the LPoC, but for the LPoC team to take it public repeat innuendo and slurrs.. that seems a little silly to me.

A call to community and the metis for support was made. Surely, the opponents can also make a call for support without attacking the other candidate? Yes/No?


Coffee (a.k.a walks)

Anonymous said...

I agrre with Mr Durochers. Whe it comes to politics, always side with democracy.

Jonathan R said...

I may be too late to add to this debate but I'll go for it anyway. I have no clue how "R" comes up with this idea that David Orchard is a pro-life, anti-same sex marriage crusader. I have been around his organization since 2000 and to my knowledge David never focused on these issues one way or another. I can't even recall anyone asking him about them. "R" is more than a little off-base.