THUNDER BAY – After over two decades of holding political offices within the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and two successful terms in the MNO’s highest elected office, MNO President Gary Lipinski announced that he will not be seeking re-election in the 2016 MNO Elections. President Lipinski made the announcement at the final meeting of the Provisional Council of the MNO (PCMNO) before the MNO Elections scheduled for May 2016.
“Eight years ago, I was elected as President on a platform that committed to advancing Métis rights, improving the quality of life of Ontario Métis children, youth families and communities and stabilizing and strengthening the MNO’s finances, accountability and administration. Today, I take great pride in the successes and results we have achieved in all of these areas. Some we could not have even imagined in 2008. I take even more pride in the fact that we did all this by working-together,” said President Lipinski.
In presenting his final State of the Nation report to the PCMNO, President Lipinski highlighted just some of the MNO achievements over his mandates:
- The signing and renewal of the MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement in 2008 and 2014, along with related Memorandums of Understanding with other Ontario Minstries, which has ushered in a new, respectful era of Crown-Métis Nation in Ontario based on mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation.
- Advancing Métis rights through intervening in significant court cases, including, Manitoba Métis Federation v. Canada, Keewatin v. Ontario, Daniels v. Canada, securing an increase in the number of Harvester Cards eligible under the 2004 MNO-Ontario Harvesting Agreement and furthering future Ontario Métis Land Claims through research, political action and meaningful participation in federal Ministerial Special Representative processes.
- The establishment of a unique Crown-Métis Nation consultation model, along with the creation of the new MNO Lands, Resources and Consultation Branch, to protect Métis lands, rights and the environment as well as ensure that Métis fully participate in resource development in their territories.
- The standardization and de-politicizing the citizenship registration process through the adoption of the MNO Registry Policy as well as the registration of over 6,000 new MNO citizens over the last 8 years.
- Increasing the MNO’s financial accountability, transparency and credibility which has led to its annual budgets increasing from $12 million to over $30 million, including, MNO affiliated corporations, along with the expansion of the MNO’s province-wide delivery structure to 21 offices and over 175 employees.
- Building a strong and credible Métis public service through significant investments in staff training, the creation of a MNO pension plan and maintaining and separating MNO politics from its administrative operations.
- Successfully overseeing the implementation of a deficit reduction plan that will completely eliminate the MNO’s inherited $4.2 million debt by 2016/17. This new reality-a debt-free MNO-will allow future generations not to be saddled with the burdens of the past.
- Increasing the profile and knowledge of Ontario Métis through initiatives such as the publication of a Métis Educational Toolkit for Ontario schools, Métis-specific curriculum development, the Métis Canoe Expedition and Infinite Reach Program, participation in events such as the Pan Am Games and securing the declaration of 2010 as the Year of the Métis by the Ontario legislature.
- Overseeing the significant expansion of MNO programs and services in economic development (the $30 million Métis Voyageur Development Fund), training, education, and health, including, ground-breaking Métis-specific studies on the state of Métis health in Ontario.
- Passage of the MNO’s first law-the Economic Prosperity and Self-Sufficiency Act-which mandated the creation of Infinity Investments LP as the MNO’s business arm as well as developing MNO-Brightroof Solar LP-a partnership that owns 50+ solar projects throughout Ontario that will produce stable, own source revenue for the MNO.
President Lipinski also highlighted the unanimous passage as the MNO Secretariat Act by the Ontario Legislature in December 2015 as one of his proudest moments. “It was quite something to sit in the place that once put a bounty on Louis Riel’s head and see all political parties support this historic legislation. We have now ensured that the MNO’s mandate to represent its citizens and communities with respect to our collective rights will never be questioned by future governments.”
“In our recent community information sessions, we repeatedly heard from those who have been a part of building the MNO since the beginning just how important this legislative recognition was. It was a watershed moment for our people and I am gratified that the next generation will not need to face the same struggles and denials we previously faced as Ontario Métis,” said President Lipinski.
In closing, President Lipinski emphasized that he was most pleased with the efforts the MNO has made in ensuring Métis youth can be all they can be. “Over my mandates, the increased successes and participation of our young people-at all levels of the MNO and within society as a whole-has warmed my heart the most. Further, the fact that more and more Métis youth want to learn about their history, culture and assist in the MNO’s nation-building project allows me to retire knowing that we are in good hands going forward.”
President Lipinski personally thanked all MNO staff as well as current and past leadership at the Community Councils level and at PCMNO, including, the current MNO Executive (France Picotte, Tim Pile, Sharon McBride and Senator Reta Gordon) for their hard work and support over the years. President Lipinski also once again acknowledged the leadership of Doug Wilson (MNO’s long-serving Chief Operating Officer who is retiring at the end of the month) and Margaret Froh, MNO’s Associate Chief Operating Officer, in building the Métis public service and making the MNO one of the most accountable Aboriginal governments in the country.
“It has truly been an honour to represent Ontario Métis over my mandates. On behalf of my wife Dianne and daughter Rachel, we will treasure the friendships and experiences we have made forever. I look forward to seeing the next elected MNO President build on the solid foundation we have built by working-together,” concluded President Lipinski.