A numbered company owned by two economic development arms of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) formally evicted the Métis National Council (MNC) from its Ottawa headquarters on Thursday.
MNC announced on social media it had been booted from the property, which is nestled amid homes, shops and restaurants in the capital city’s leafy Centretown district, by its Manitoba-based proprietor.
“We apologize for any inconvenience,” MNC said. “However, the Louis Riel Capital Corporation (our landlords) have demanded we vacate our offices. We will be sure to update you once we have new office space.”
The property’s registered owner, 6106111 Manitoba Ltd., said in a statement issued through MMF that it hit the national council with a notice of termination on April 12, citing “default and fundamental breach” of its lease.
An eviction notice giving MNC 30 days to vacate the premises remained posted in the property’s windows on Friday, directly beneath the May 12 notice saying the locks were changed and that MNC had five days to remove its furniture.
“Despite the attractive location and reasonable rent, the MNC defaulted in its obligations under the lease due to its refusal to acknowledge the lease’s validity and by making conditional rental payments, asserting it reserves all rights to recover its payments,” the numbered company said.
According to Manitoba corporate records, 6106111 Manitoba Ltd. is a subsidiary of the Louis Riel Capital Corporation, with which it shares directors, and the Métis Economic Development Organization. Both firms are development and investment arms of the MMF, their websites show.
This numbered company, which is chaired by a long-serving MMF official, inked a lease extension with MNC that raised MNC’s rent on April 6, 2021. MMF left the MNC five months later just prior to an election, and the MNC’s new administration claims the lease is invalid.
The national council laid out allegations around its now-former base of operations in a multi-million-dollar civil lawsuit filed Jan. 27. Named in the suit are the Manitoba federation, its President David Chartrand, former long-time MNC president Clément Chartier, former MNC official Wenda Watteyne and several former staffers.
MNC alleges this outgoing administration perpetrated a “scorched earth policy scheme” to gut the MNC prior to MMF’s secession, leaving the incoming leaders with a hobbled organization burdened with bad deals.
According to Ontario property records obtained by APTN News, 6106111 Manitoba Ltd. bought the Ottawa property at the heart of the dispute in 2011 and immediately leased it to MNC.
MNC alleges the 10-year lease agreement expired on Oct. 31, 2021 when the rent was $18,700 per month. The council claims the outgoing leaders amended the lease to bind MNC to another seven-year term with the new rent of $19,449, which it alleges is “much higher than fair market rent.”
MNC claims Chartier, who was then MNC president but is now with MMF, and Chartrand, who was MNC finance minister and MMF president, were in conflicts of interest and “preferred the interest of MMF and the Manitoba Landlord to the detriment of MNC.”
MMF denies all the allegations, which have not been tested in court. In its defence, the federation claims the lease is “valid and enforceable” and that “the rent rate is well below market and the increase was reasonable.”
The MMF and Chartrand argue the national council’s case is a desperate gambit “to secure power and influence,” calling the lawsuit legally baseless “political theatre.”
The MNC was founded in 1983 to advocate for Métis rights nationally but has been snarled in divisive political feuding over governance and identity for years.
In 2002, the MNC adopted a national definition for Métis citizenship. Its five provincial member organizations were expected to re-register their citizens under the new criteria, but the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) refused.
In 2018, the Métis general assembly voted to place MNO on probation for one year while MNO opened up its books for a citizenship review.
MNO refused. So Chartier, backed by Chartrand, purported to suspend the MNO and wouldn’t call a general assembly, where an election was scheduled, unless Ontario was banned.
But the Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta organizations formed a trilateral alliance and argued Ontario could only be suspended by collective vote during the general assembly when the election would be held.
MNO eventually launched a successful court bid, backed by the other tri-council members, that forced MNC to hold its assembly and election, where President Cassidy Caron was acclaimed.
Caron said Friday that the eviction wouldn’t impact service delivery but had no further comment due to the ongoing court case.
With files from Fraser Needham