After serving the Nelson and Area Métis Society as president for approximately 20 years, Don Courson plans to run for Region #4 director’s role to represent the Kootenay citizens with the Métis Nation of B.C. (MNBC).

The MNBC announced March 17 that the provincial election had been approved by the Métis Nation Governing Assembly (MNGA) for Sept. 10.

Courson will be campaigning against Columbia Valley Métis Association (CVMA) president Debra Fisher in the Sept. 10 election by for the opportunity to represent Métis citizens from the Elk Valley Métis Association in Fernie, the Kootenay South Métis Society in Trail, the Nelson and Area Métis Society (formerly known as the West Kootenay Métis Society), the Métis Nation and Columbia River Society in Golden, the Rocky Mountain Métis Association in Cranbrook and the CVMA in Invermere.

“The primary role is to represent the Métis Citizens and communities of the Kootenays at the MNBC and Metis National Council,” said Courson. “A political board position requires engagement with the local presidents of the seven communities to ensure and promote needs are being met and communication back to local presidents for updates.”

Courson believes representing Region #4 in a director’s position at the MNBC could be used to help with advocacy to gain support for Métis citizens with a blend of Kootenay culture through a wide variety of initiatives for chartered communities such as: education, health services, housing as well as employment and training.

“As a regional director, I hope to improve the communication and awareness internally and within the greater East and West Kootenay population,” he said, “we are a recognized Aboriginal people with equal rights as identified in our Canadian Charter. We wish to improve and support our First Nations Aboriginal partners in obtaining and securing our place in the modern communities moving forward for our children and future generations.”

However, the growing concern to be recognized as Métis citizens nationally is front of mind for Courson, like it is for many other members located in chartered communities.

“Our local concerns are no different than other communities,” said Courson. “Recognition of our Métis history and Aboriginal rights, specifically identified as Section 35 rights in the Canadian Charter. These rights are further Clarified in the Daniel Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. We have a priority for recognition of our Métis Rights in B.C., which has not been confirmed, even though B.C. has proclaimed and accepted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Courson’s goal is to raise awareness about the Nelson and Area Métis Society as well as about the Kootenay region’s presence from a provincial and national perspective by participating in community events and advocating for political rights.

Courson feels that having served his chartered community in Nelson has helped prepare him for the upcoming election with MNBC this fall.

“I am proud of the past several years locally in increasing our voice, recognition in the community and participation in all West Kootenay Métis Community activities,” said Courson. “I am a strong voice for the people, I do not need to do this work, it is a challenge which I respectfully take on for our Métis community and members throughout B.C. and Canada.”