Dear Minister Polak and Minister Duncan,
Over the course of the past two years the British Columbia Métis Federation (BCMF), formally known as the Coalition of Concerned Métis Citizens, has attempted to address internal governance and financial issues related to the governance and financial management of the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC). This included considerable efforts to attend MNBC governance meetings, consulting with Métis people, and drafting proposed solutions for MNBC. MNBC leadership and management have refused to admit to the seriousness of the situation and have rejected input from the BCMF and our members. This has led to three years of massive debts, Métis governance mismanagement, and impacts to programs and services through the delays of funding caused by the financial crisis.
The MNBC purports to represent all Métis people in British Columbia and as such benefits by being funded by a number of federal and provincial government programs to provide a variety of services. As such MNBC administers approximately $13 million in annual funding from a variety of sources. MNBC is a non for profit and has been structured to be accountable to Métis people who apply and are eligible for MNBC citizenship. It is estimated that MNBC has approximately 6500 approved citizenship cards while there are over 60,000 Métis people who self identify thus only truly representing approximately 10% of the Métis people in British Columbia
Due to the ongoing internal challenges within the MNBC a number of individuals who hold an MNBC citizenship card are deciding to terminate their MNBC citizenship. For many the most serious issue appears to be the inability of MNBC leadership to be transparent and accountable especially as it relates to their financial administration of public funding. This leadership style has created significant MNBC organizational debt, no consistent support or capacity for Métis communities MNBC professes to represent, and limited support for Métis culture despite the obvious fact that MNBC has been contracted approximately $13 million to provide Métis specific programs and services. Further proof of the MNBC’s inability to be transparent will be validated shortly as BCMF sent a letter on July 19th, 2011 for a copy of the MNBC 2010-2011 Annual Financial Statements. BCMF is confident MNBC will not make these statements public until their Annual General Meeting in September. Thereby once again intentionally limiting the Métis people an opportunity to analyze or better understand the financial position of the MNBC as of March 31st, 2011.
Another major factor to the overall MNBC financial crisis has been the continued questions about the for profit corporation set up by the MNBC, the Métis Skills and Employment Center (MSEC). MNBC has boasted about the purchase of a school in Abbottsford since September 2009 when it first became public that MNBC purchased a school three months prior in June 2009. There was never a Métis public consultation or business plan produced in advance to review for MNBC to get approval to purchase the school and borrow millions of dollars, and there have been no copies of a MSEC feasibility study or business plan although BCMF and others have requested this information since October 2009.
In May 2011 MNBC released their Debt Recovery Plan whereby they would begin the process of finally addressing three years of consecutive overspending leading to this current MNBC financial crisis. Unfortunately the MNBC Debt Recovery Plan is vague and ambiguous without clear deliverables. MNBC identifies three areas of focus for debt recovery: administration, governance, and economic development as “immediate” steps. Therein is the challenge for MNBC and why BCMF remains steadfast in our efforts to force MNBC to be publicly accountable and transparent as described below.
First the MNBC Debt Recover Plan regarding economic development appears to rely heavily on the success of the MSEC. This raises many questions about how profits will be realized or measured in relation to the MNBC financial statements. BCMF has obtained a copy of a draft internal MSEC financial document that we understand was used to present to the MNBC Board during their retreat in March 2011 as MNBC finalized their Debt Recovery Plan. It is attached for review and please note the document is identified as “draft” and is subject to full MNBC disclosure about the accuracies.
During the Métis Nation Governing Assembly in February 2011 MNBC leaders assured the Métis delegates that MNBC would realize another major debt in 2010-2011 (in excess of $700,000) but MSEC would be able to provide approximately $300,000 to offset some of the 2010-2011 MNBC debt. The attached draft MSEC financials indicate a surplus of $355,905.19 as of March 31st, 2011. However there are many glaring errors in this MSEC draft revenue and expenditure assumption; consider these few facts just to point out the obvious:
a) MSEC has listed as expenses property taxes of $43, 200.00.
i. BCMF knows by factual evidence that as of May 30th, 2011 MNBC owed property taxes for the MSEC to the City of Abbotsford totaling approximately $243,000.00.
ii. Furthermore, the annual property taxes are about $115,000.00 each year so this expenditure figure is grossly understated if MNBC decisions were made based on this presentation of expenses.
iii. Finally there is no expense listing to pay the outstanding property taxes owed as of March 31st, 2011.
i. BCMF confirms that as of March 31st, 2011 MNBC was in delinquent of all 2010 property taxes ($124,924.85) and
ii. BCMF confirms that as of March 31st, 2011 MNBC was in arrears of the 2011 property taxes ($115,261.30).
BCMF urges that stakeholders (such as government funding partners) should be questioning how MNBC leaders make decisions about alleged profit in 2010-2011 through MSEC considering, among other matters, the fact that MNBC did not pay basic property taxes as of March 31st, 2011 for either 2010 or 2011. This is fact and is a major discrepancy when compared to the draft MSEC statement that only MNBC can answer. In light of this example BCMF requested a copy of the MNBC 2010-2011 Financial Statements last week to review how MNBC will present the overall financial statements.
Second the governance of MSEC and the relationship with the MNBC remains a major risk in terms of how economic development should be structured. For example, the MNBC elected officials appear to be self appointed on MSEC. Moreover this included close family relations as major board members and management within MSEC. MNBC has yet to fully explain how the MSEC board was structured, who the shareholders of this for profit entity are, how MSEC management was chosen, and how their education or training programming is accredited. MSEC is registered with the Private Career Training Institutions Agency of BC (PCTIA) but is not accredited. MSEC is apparently receiving funding from partners such as the Industry Training Authority, Bladerunners (through ACCESS), and reinvesting their own programming funding such as the ASTIF, etc. These are largely federally funded programs and BCMF questions how such programs can provide funding to non-accredited training? Moreover, if these programs are industry certified is it assumed MNBC or MSEC can simply keep the revenue generated that is surplus? According to the draft MSEC statements MSEC will realize almost 40% in profit from the identified revenue sources. On the surface, this appears to contradict federal policy as it relates to other organizations that are only eligible to reimburse actual costs for employment and training based programs. The issue here is if the attached draft MSEC financial document was used to assume a financial position as of March 31st, 2011, some of the revenues assumptions appear to be questionable at best.
Finally the MNBC Debt Recovery Plan stresses that economic development is an immediate priority, especially business ventures and economic development analysis. Therefore I have attached an internal economic development report allegedly submitted to the MNBC leaders on February 28th, 2011. Ironically MNBC leaders assured their delegates at the February 19th and 20th, 2011 sitting of the Métis Nation Governing Assembly that their actions to address the growing MNBC debt through the three main areas, one being economic development, would be immediate. I have attached the reported internal MNBC economic development performance indicators presented 8 days after the verbal assurances made by MNBC leaders. Please review the significant lack of progress and here are a few obvious issues as of February 28th, 2011:
a) No new business ventures.
b) No revenue for Meet-So Catering.
c) No new partnerships.
d) No progress on the completion of the economic development corporation.
e) Revenue created – 1 source Roller Derby Group.
The MNBC contradictions between what they report in a political forum in relation to what is actually being internally completed in the MNBC is staggering.
Therefore BCMF will continue our work to educate and inform Métis people as well as governments about this severe situation. The evidence of MNBC mismanagement and manipulation grows each day. This recent MNBC/MSEC internal documentation is yet another example of information that should have been made public by MNBC/MSEC as these organizations must be accountable and fully transparent for the good of all Métis people which they claim to serve. If these documents are incorrect BCMF welcomes revised information from MNBC or an explanation by MNBC to governments and the Métis people about why they do not feel they need to be fully accountable and transparent for the management and use of public funds.
BCMF continues to assert our rightful place as a new governing organization that Métis people in BC and government’s can work with for the future. Federal and provincial officials should be advising your respective offices of the impending MNBC financial collapse that is a direct result of MNBC’s gross negligence, no public accountability (Métis or otherwise), and no transparency (Métis or otherwise). BCMF continues to invite MNBC to be publicly accountable but to date they continue to refuse thus further eroding Métis public confidence and reinforcing BCMF claims. These internal MNBC documents further question MNBC’s ability to be open and transparent in any manner and any investments by governments in 2011-2012 must be seriously considered given the gravity of the financial challenges.
BCMF looks forward to rebuilding Métis governance in British Columbia and will be sending your offices work plans in the near future as a way to move forward past the impending financial collapse of MNBC.
British Columbia Métis Federation
BCMF Board of Directors
Bruce Dumont, President Métis Nation British Columbia
Mary Lou Kenney, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Government of Canada
Rod Cunningham, Service Canada
Arlene Paton, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation