Two-and-a-half weeks after the Métis National Council (MNC) announced it’s bringing legal action in regards to the former operations of the organization, David Chartrand, one of those named in the lawsuit, says, “Show me the audit.”
Newly-elected MNC president Cassidy Caron said in a Facebook post on Jan. 27 that an audit of governance and financial practices and policies of the MNC had “uncovered agreements, contracts and consultation arrangements that may be questionable in nature.”
Based on these findings and in consultation with legal counsel, she said, a statement of claim was filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, along with the MMF, former MNC president Clement Chartier and former executive director Wenda Watteyne are among 11 named in that lawsuit seeking $15 million in damages.
Chartrand said he has not seen that audit and pointed out that Caron’s Facebook post included her pronouncement that she would not speak on the matter further.
“They’re weaponizing the civil courts to do their political deeds. This is not about anything about the MNC. This is not about (a) scorched earth issue. This is about the Métis definition. They’re trying to change the channel,” Chartrand told Windspeaker.com in a Feb. 10 interview.
He said he was minister of finance for MNC for at least 18 years and he left the organization “in a very strong financial state.”
Last September, the MMF, one of the founding members of the MNC, left the national council following the years-long battle with the Métis Nation of Ontario over the implementation of the MNC’s definition of Métis.
That definition, accepted in 2002, reads “a person who self-identifies as Métis, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry, is distinct from other Aboriginal Peoples and is accepted by the Métis Nation.”
At the heart of the dispute was the MNO’s decision to include Métis communities they held were historic but which the MMF claimed were not.
At the MNC’s general assembly this past September, a panel with representatives from the MNO, MN-S, MNA and Métis Nation British Columbia and experts was struck to gather information and present findings to the MNC that would include reviewing “the history of the seven Ontario communities through the lens of the national definition and contemporary Métis governance.”
The panel is to report recommendations within 12 months from the initial meeting.
The Métis Nations of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia all issued statements supporting the MNC’s decision to take legal action.
The statement of claim alleges the withdrawal of MMF from the MNC, as well as the three individuals, resulting in a “scorched earth policy to intentionally cause financial harm and other injury to MNC, recognizing that MNC and MMF would now be competing to be the legitimate or recognized authority and voice of the Métis Nation going forward.”
This coming spring, says Chartrand, the MMF will send a commission west to talk to Métis citizens in its goal to represent all Métis that have their origins in the Red River in Manitoba.
The MMF signed a self-government and implementation agreement with Canada last July that mandates them to represent the Manitoba Métis community which, says the agreement, was “historically knowns as the Red River Métis.”
This means, says Chartrand, that the MMF represents Red River Métis wherever they live.
Already, the MMF is being swamped for citizenship cards, he said.
“So (the MNC are) afraid. They see thousands and thousands and thousands of people leaving them because they don’t believe in their policies and their pathway in how they are diluting and destroying the Métis Nation,” he said.
“This is more of a camouflage to deflect the issues because there is no money missing and MNC’s in a strong position.”
Chartrand points out that in recent years the federal government conducted a financial review of MNC books based on allegations made by former employees of misappropriation of government funds. The review covered from 2015 to 2018.
The report issued by Ernest & Young in March 2020 found the allegations were not substantiated. However, E&Y had concerns around approximately $2 million in government funding “as a result of MNC’s procedures, record-keeping” but “did not identify any unsupported or ineligible expenditures which would require a recovery” of government funding.
The MNC’s statement of claim against Chartrand and others alleges a “breach of fiduciary duties and the other unlawful conduct” including $9 million that went from the MNC to MMF from the Métis Veterans Recognition Payment Contribution Agreement.
Chartrand points out that the MNC does not deliver programs. He adds that because he fought for benefits for veterans it made sense the program would be delivered by the MMF and therefore the money was transferred to MMF. He also adds it’s one of many programs that the MMF has successfully delivered.
In fact, Chartrand said he will be hiring a third-party auditing firm this year to look at the MMF books and it will include auditing the veterans’ program, which he figures to date has given out about $1.5 million to veterans, their spouses and children.
“There’s nothing missing. There’s no money missing. Every cent’s accounted for. The program is delivered the way it’s supposed to be delivered to the promises made to veterans,” said Chartrand.
Chartrand said a new president’s priority should be to set her parameters and to let members know what she stands for. Caron was elected last September.
In Caron’s statement of her first 100 days in office, she lists among her work “restarting the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism with Canada to advance shared priorities, policy, and funding for programs and services that make a real difference for Métis citizens” and meetings with federal politicians and Indigenous organizations.
She also makes note of the comprehensive review that was launched to look at, in part, “arrangements that were inherited from the previous administration.”
Chartrand said he finds it surprising that Caron moved right into taking legal action.
“If you have an audit, (if) you have so much you want to sue MMF, you want to sue David Chartrand, you want to sue Clement Chartier, you want to sue them, you believe it’s valued at $15 million, show us.
“You should have nothing to hide, nothing to fear because it scared you. It should scare all of us then,” said Chartrand.
“There is no audit, that’s what I’m telling you,” he said.
Chartier said a statement of defence will be filed.
According to litigation rules for Ontario, it could still be a considerable amount of time before the MMF is provided with the audit.
Shari Narine is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with Windspeaker.com. Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.