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Metis Nation of Ontario is ready for a woman president, says Froh.

BARRIE, Ont.

Margaret Froh is confident that the Metis Nation of Ontario is ready to be led by a woman. Froh announced on March 21 her intention to seek the position of president. She says she was encouraged to run by retiring MNO President Gary Lipinski, who has also endorsed her candidacy.

Froh presently serves as both in-house legal counsel and associate chief operating officer to the MNO, as well as teaches Indigenous governance at the Banff Centre in Alberta. She says she's is ready to take the next step.

"I've been doing this work for so long ... I'm out there and I'm teaching it and I'm practising it and I see the opportunity here to bring those skills home to my nation, which is the whole reason I went to law school in the first place," she said.

Froh said this is an exciting time to be at the helm of the MNO.

"We're really engaged at so many different levels," she said, pointing to promising developing relationships with both the federal and provincial governments.

"For the first time in an extremely long time, we have a federal government that is actually talking about committing itself ... to establishing a nation-to-nation relation with the Metis nation and that has never happened before," she said.

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Froh points to an upcoming special ministerial report that is expected to see movement towards a reconciliation process for Section 35 for the Metis, addressing Metis rights, specific claims and comprehensive claims.

"We're very hopeful there's going to be a strong report coming up soon that's going to set a bit of a path for the federal government to move forward on that process," she said.

MNO also has a strong relationship with the provincial government. In December, all provincial parties put aside partisanship to support the Metis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act.

"I was part of the work to outline our concerns to Ontario and guide in Ontario developing that legislation and I was part of the work to try and bring it home and ultimately see the legislature pass it," said Froh.

"These are some of the once in a lifetime opportunities and it's really critical that we're ready for them and that we have the right people in the right places to do this kind of work," she said.

Froh said her top priorities will be advancing Metis rights and land claims, as well as building community capacity for self-government.

Promoting and celebrating Metis culture, history and language is another priority.

"Not only does this create a real sense of pride in our communities, but it also tells the world, and our neighbours, and the government that we were here historically and we contributed as a founding partner in this country and were still here and we're still celebrating," she said.

Engaging young people is another priority set by Froh, who wants to create mentoring programs that allow Elders to work with youth.

"I want to be encouraging (young people) to step forward and get involved in our government system even more than they are now," she said "I really want to ensure they feel that they have a real voice in the Metis Nation of Ontario."

Froh singles out the young women, who have potential to be leaders. She says she wants to set an example for them, the same way Audrey Poitras, president of the Metis Nation of Alberta, has been an inspiration for her. Poitras is the only woman leading a Metis government.

"Audrey is a very strong leader, I have a huge amount of res pea for her," said Froh, adding that Poitras has a high national profile as well.

Froh also has a huge amount of respect for Lipinski and the MNO president before him, Tony Belcourt.

"The Metis Nation of Ontario ... we get things done. We make the best use of the resources we have. We've got committed, enthusiastic people. We have a really strong vision set out in our Metis Nation of Ontario statement of prime purpose, which is ultimately what guides me in everything that I'm doing," said Froh. "We've got a really bright future ahead of us."

Froh is joined by declared candidates Tobias Clarke and Hank Rowlinson in the race for president. Nomination deadline is April 1.

The province-wide election takes place May 2. Results will be announced May 12.

By Shari Narine

Windspeaker Contributor
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Title Annotation:Ontario Birchbark: Special Section providing news from Ontario; Margaret Froh
Author:Narine, Shari
Publication:Windspeaker
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Apr 15, 2016
Words:734
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