MN-S president Robert Doucette reflects on personal past, political future

by Phil Ambroziak

A never give up attitude and a drive to make things better for Saskatchewan’s Métis people are two very important reasons Robert Doucette believes he’s been able to achieve the level of success he has in both his personal life and professional career.

The newly re-elected Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) president was born in 1962. As a member of the McKay clan, he is related to many of the big families from northwestern Saskatchewan.

Unfortunately for Doucette, however, he did not have an opportunity to experience much in the way of traditional Métis culture while growing up. At the tender age of four months, he was taken from his family, put in the care of a foster family and raised in Prince Albert.

“I was told, during the ‘60s, hundreds or maybe even thousands of Métis children in northern Saskatchewan were taken away from their families for reasons that even today are still unknown,” Doucette said. “I was told my grandfather was swearing in four different languages and throwing rocks at the car as they took me away. I never met my grandfather, but I did meet my mother when I was 20 years old. This does not mean I did not love my foster parents. They were very good to me and I will always be thankful for everything they ever did for me, but it’s difficult when I think about everything I lost or missed out on – the history, the languages, the relationships.”

In spite of this cultural absence, Doucette did learn of his Métis roots and it didn’t take him long to come to the understanding that life wasn’t always going to be easy.

“When I grew up, I faced a lot of ‘isms’ that many people are still faced with today – especially racism or a lack of identity,” he said. “We (Métis children) were always called chief. When you’re growing up and you’re one of the darkest kids on the block and you’re being called chief, you know something’s different.”

One of the defining moments of Doucette’s youth, which helped guide him toward a goal of making a difference in the lives of Métis people, occurred when he was 15 years old.

“I received a letter from a major junior hockey team asking me to take part in a tryout,” he said. “I walked through the doors of the arena and one of the executives walked up to me right away and asked what I was doing there. My dad told him I received a letter from the coach asking me to take part in a tryout, but the executive told me not to bother because I would never make it because I was an Indian. I will never forget that.”

After that, Doucette said he became a little downhearted and turned away from hockey.

“I started running and taking part in more sports that were individual in nature,” he continued. “I did not want others to tell me if I would be successful or not. I also knew, when I became an adult, I would do whatever I could to allow people to do what they can based on their ability not their ethnicity.”

After high school, Doucette attended the University of Brandon and the University of Saskatchewan where he majored in native and political studies. This is also where he met his wife, Betty.

After graduation, Doucette moved to Regina where he worked for Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC).

“After about a year, I came to the realization that I wanted to work for Métis people, so I moved to Saskatoon and began working for Métis Employment and Training,” he said. “That’s when I first became somewhat involved with politics, or at least the politics of the organization. I also had the honour of working for the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre. That was two good years of my life and I will always be grateful to the good people there. This was an opportunity that allowed me to learn a lot about First Nations people, something I continue to carry with me today as I endeavour to build stronger relationships with our First Nations cousins.”

It was around this time Doucette also had a hand in reorganizing a university youth local in an effort to generate a stronger interest in Métis issues amongst younger members.

“In one year, that local grew from 11 members to 1,100,” Doucette said. “A lot of those people continue to do well in their jobs and are leaders in their own right. What I was most proud of was, when I left that local, it continued both stable and strong.”

As for Métis provincial council, Doucette initially ran for the role of area director in 1993. He lost that election, but used the experience to grow as both a person and as a future politician.

“At the time, I didn’t know the tactical nature you need to be successful,” he said. “I learned a lot from that experience and I haven’t lost an election since.”

In the years that followed, Doucette would be elected area director for the Saskatoon region before later taking on the role of MN-S secretary, vice-president and eventually president.

“I was elected for my first term five years ago, and I guess you could say the rest is history,” he remarked.

Doucette was re-elected to the role of MN-S president in this year’s MN-S election, which took place Sept. 8.

“The Métis people have reaffirmed what we’ve been doing and have put their trust in us for another term,” he said. “We’re not going to let them down. I congratulate all the candidates for making an effort and I congratulate all the successful candidates on being elected.”

Doucette went on to say he is “really pumped” to start working with the new Métis government.

“We want to work in the best interest of the Métis people,” he said. “Gerald Morin will bring a lot of experience to the table as vice-president, and I also look forward to working with new secretary May Henderson. The people have said they want us to deal with the bread and butter issues such as education, employment, housing, health and rights. We’re also working on establishing a harvesting agreement that will allow Métis people to hunt province-wide, we plan to build more affordable housing across Saskatchewan and we really want to be there for our elders. It’s sad when they have to choose between buying food, paying rent or buying medication.”

As a father and grandfather, Doucette also promises to put a stronger focus on youth issues during his second term.

“I have three daughters and a son,” he said. “Their names are Kyra, Breanna, Julia and Brady. I also have two granddaughters – Paige and Naomi. It’s important to engage Métis youth and help foster new leaders. We need to embrace them and the change they will bring.”


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