(Vancouver BC) On Sunday Aug. 21 2011, President Bruce Dumont and Lower Mainland Regional Director Henry Hall, sent letters (dated September 21st, 2011) on behalf of the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) to Vancouver Métis Cultural Society (VMCS) Interim President Russ Roy and Nova Métis Heritage Association (NOVA) President Ken Fisher, demanding resignations from the two respective organizations.
The letters sent by the MNBC to the Presidents of NOVA and VMCS were identical in content and excerpts can be seen below:
Via Email / Original Mailed
“We are informed that you have accepted an appointment to a position on the Board of Directors of the B.C. Métis Federation, (the “BCMF”) a British Columbia society with the purpose of challenging and competing with the Métis Nation British Columbia (the “MNBC”) and its secretariat, the Métis Provincial Council of British Columbia (the “MPCBC”) as the representative of the Metis Citizens in British Columbia. Information of your appointment to the BCMF Board of Directors been confirmed by a news release recently disseminated by the BCMF.
The MNBC Constitution is the supreme law of the Métis Nation and, you as the Interim President and member of the VMCS Board of Directors, have agreed to expressly uphold spirit and intent of the MNBC Constitution and the provisions of the Community Governance Charter, the agreement governing the affairs between the MNBC and its chartered communities.
By accepting an appointment to the position of BCMF Board Member you have deliberately placed yourself in direct variance with the principles of the Métis Nation, the legislation governing the Métis Citizens of B.C. and therefore the best interests of the Métis Citizens of British Columbia. You cannot serve two masters and cannot continue to act as a member of the governance structure of both the BCMF and the MNBC. You have made your choice and the MNBC accepts your decision.
In response to these MNBC letters, both President Roy and President Fisher, upon direction from their Board of Directors have called meetings to address the MNBC correspondence.
VMCS has called a meeting for September 3rd, 2011 as a direct response to the concerns of the MNBC and as such both MNBC President Dumont and Mr. Henry Hall were invited to attend. MNBC President Dumont responded via email on August 24th by stating;
“I accept your invitation and regretfully will not be able to attend. This meeting is scheduled on the last long weekend / Labour Day of the summer. I do have plans with my family which is my priority.”
The VMCS understands the importance of family, yet is disappointed that MNBC President Dumont will not be present considering his letter has created this situation. It was the hope of VMCS that the invitation would be accepted by MNBC representatives as the meeting is to address the issues put forth by the MNBC and the people in attendance is the Métis people that the MNBC claims to represent. Regardless it is unclear of the MNBC representative Henry Hall will attend either.
The BCMF knows that the Métis people of our nation have never given up their right to self govern. The battle to maintain this right is historical and ongoing. Today, the Métis people of British Columbia maintain this right and as such make the decisions that affect their families and communities. Our leaders are simply a conduit; the voices come from the grassroots. The BCMF and its Board of Directors have not forgotten that fact and as such, no member of the BCMF Board of Directors would even begin to act in a manner that presupposes “supreme” authority over any Métis person and/or organization in BC. Such a presupposition is not only dangerous but disrespectful to all parties involved. What the BCMF, NOVA and VMCS Board members do believe and practice is respectful dialogue, problem solving strategies and when all else fails, due process through proper procedures and protocols. The BCMF values these proactive practices as they ensure that the voices of all Métis people are heard in order for fair and responsible decisions to be reached, decisions such as who they want to represent their interests, even if MNBC does not agree.
It was made very clear in the MNBC letters sent to Presidents Roy and Fisher that the MNBC claims to be the “supreme” law of the Métis Nation. The letters sent by the MNBC reference guiding legislative documents of the MNBC to support the MNBC’s claim of ultimate supremacy, yet the MNBC fails to heed to the governing principles of those documents. For example:
The Métis Nation Constitution states:
- Every Métis Citizen has the right of association and to assemble and organize at the community level. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those necessary to protect the peace and order of the Métis Nation as prescribed by the Métis Nation Governing Assembly.
The Métis Community Governance Charter states:
- Any dispute concerning this Charter Agreement, including a dispute with respect to the interpretation, application, implementation or operation of this Charter Agreement or its Terms and provisions shall be, where possible, resolved by consensus.
- Where a matter in dispute cannot be resolved by the Parties as set out in Article 7.1 herein, either Party may, in writing and with notice to the other Party, refer the matter in dispute to the Senate for determination. Until a Senate body has been constituted, those matters to be referred to the Senate herein shall be referred for determination to an ad hoc committee known as the “Senate Committee” which shall be established by the MNBC and constituted of Métis Citizens appointed by the MNBC.
Although the above excerpts come directly from “legislative documents” of the MNBC, it is evident by MNBC President Dumont’s written email response to Interim President Russ Roy of VMCS, that President Dumont is not upholding MNBC’s “legislative” due process. As President Dumont tries to articulate the issue in his letter he stated:
“This letter addressed to you is about you being a representative/ director of BCMF and the Interim President of VMCS. Although you represent VMCS through the signed Chartered Agreement this is not about the VMCS Community it is that you are a representative of two competing Métis Organizations. The MNBC Board of Directors must protect the Constitution and the Chartered Agreements. This is your decision to make and not about the Dispute Resolution within the terms of Chartered Agreement.”
First and foremost, the BCMF would like to point out that the above excerpt from the MNBC Constitution allows for “association and assembly” at the community level. Second, The Métis Community Governance Charter states (among other things) that; “The MNBC will respect the autonomy of the Community”. Finally, the Dispute Resolution clause clearly defines that; “Any dispute concerning this Charter Agreement, including a dispute with respect to the interpretation, application, implementation or operation of this Charter Agreement or its Terms and provisions shall be, where possible, resolved by consensus.”
This same clause as seen above goes on to describe the rest of the process.
It is clear to BCMF, NOVA and VMCS that MNBC, under the leadership of President Dumont, do not fulfill their own dispute resolution obligations nor does the MNBC have a strong grasp on exactly why they are asking for the resignations of NOVA President Ken Fisher and VMCS Interim President Russ Roy. Either it is because the organizations they represent have signed a Charter Agreement or it is not , “…this is not about the VMCS Community…” – as his letter today stated, yet, if MNBC uphold the right to community autonomy, there is no conflicting representation. Either way, it would appear that if due process and MNBC guiding documents are utilized, neither President should have been asked for their resignation.
Since there seems to be such confusion, who should resign and/or who should not, it should be up to the Métis people of the communities involved. They should and will decide who represents them.
The BCMF and Presidents Roy and Fisher are amazed that the leadership of the MNBC has forgotten the very basics from which the Métis Nation was built. The Métis governing bodies across Canada were formed in order to give a voice to the Métis people so that they could exercise their rights including the freedom to choose how the business of their communities will be conducted.
The Métis people have fought long and hard to be recognized in this country by the federal and provincial governments of Canada, a fight that was reinforced in 1982 when the Métis were included into section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982, and finally recognized as one of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Therefore, the BCMF poses this question: Who has the right to decide who is to be Métis and who is not. If MNBC denounces you as a Métis person because you choose not to support their politics, management or governance structure, does this mean that your culture, heritage and history no longer exist for you and your family? Does this mean that you have lost your voice?
BCMF President Keith Henry Stated; “The latest attempt to remove community leaders continues to showcase the extreme lengths MNBC Board are prepared to go in the face of challenges they have. The MNBC letters speak for themselves. The follow up email from MNBC President Dumont adds more confusion about what the MNBC letters are intending to say. I compare this action to Provincial Premier Christy Clark saying to a City Mayor that you are not a British Columbian if you are not a Provincial Liberal or prepared to support everything I say. Or Prime Minister Harper saying unless you are a card carrying conservative you cannot be a Canadian Citizen. There is no difference.”
BCMF President Henry further added; “I leave you with this question that the MNBC has ultimately posed with its most recent correspondence to Presidents Roy and Fisher: Does our loyalty to a political organization mean giving up our rights as Métis people? Only you, the Métis people can answer that. I support Ken and Russ defending this latest attempt by the MNBC to remove them as community recognized delegates for the upcoming MNBC AGM. Their community elected them, their communities will decide who represents their interests and the fact that MNBC continues this unprecedented behavior flies in the face of true democracy in this country. The MNBC board has removed so many of our people, who is next, when will it end? Meanwhile MNBC does not answer calls for the financial statements, allows taxes to remain unpaid accumulating interest for the property in Abbotsford, continues to be spend about $58,000 a month on board salaries and expenses, plus many other issues.”
BCMF President Henry concluded; “Unlike the MNBC, BCMF leaders will wait to hear how each of the respective boards and members want to address this situation. BCMF will attend the September 3rd meeting as requested by VMCS and will continue to educate the grass roots community members. We believe that once Métis people have a chance to see both sides of the issues, the answers become very clear.”
More information will be posted soon regarding the upcoming meeting dates, times and locations. Please watch our website to ensure that you have the most up to date information.
BC Métis Federation
#300-3665 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5W2