The following letter was sent to Premier Clark and Prime Minister Harper earlier today…
Dear Premier Clark and Prime Minister Harper,
The BC Métis Federation writes today to the Provincial and Federal leaders in light of the events unfolding in Attawapiskat and the issues Métis people are facing in British Columbia that continue to remain unresolved.
Over the course of the last several months the BC Métis Federation has written several correspondences to your respective Ministers responsible for Aboriginal Affairs. The BC Métis Federation letters were our attempt to explain and provide important background information to address what we believe is gross financial mismanagement by an organization known as the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC). Federal and Provincial governments invest several millions on an annual basis to MNBC through a variety of programs. Since June 2011 the BC Métis Federation has written 13 letters sent to your Ministers about our serious concerns. The BC Métis Federation letters included fact based evidence and we believe provided each of your governments an opportunity to further review and critically analyze to draw your own conclusions. Today the responses from governments will not address the serious issues.
The MNBC mismanagement continues to have a direct affect on much needed programs and services for our Métis people in BC. MNBC has grown the current organizational debt to well over $2.6 million as of March 31st, 2011 and has already confirmed that the MNBC debt continues to grow this year evidenced by a document released in the first quarter of fiscal 2011-2012. Most recently MNBC has been late reimbursing program payments for youth projects, student living allowances, student tuitions and is estimated to have a very significant list of outstanding payables owed today to a variety of vendors.
We have met once with the Provincial Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mary Polak in July 2011 and she has since provided one written correspondence as follow up dated September 8th. Remarkably her response to BC Métis Federation concerns appeared to believe MNBC would address the current financial situation in the near future. We disagree and the facts following the date of her correspondence continue to support our concerns. For example, she indicated MNBC had a plan to address their accumulated debt in future years, if not this fiscal year. One of the alleged MNBC economic development schemes was a company entitled Meet so Catering Services Limited. MNBC suspended operations only after three months of operations in October 2011 for financial reasons and MNBC has yet to inform Métis people how much more money they lost due to this latest fiasco.
The Federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada John Duncan has been unable to meet despite our repeated attempts. BC Métis Federation felt this Minister would be extremely interested in meeting given the fact that his office provided additional resources (estimated at $60,000.00) to MNBC to hire high paid consultants in 2011 to design a Debt Recovery Plan. According to MNBC’s commitments written in this plan MNBC was to provide monthly updates, quarterly reports, etc. MNBC has not provided any monthly updates regarding this plan since it became public in May 2011. Furthermore MNBC has not presented a new second quarter report for 2011-2012 although the second quarter was completed over 73 days ago. We question whether the Minister and his officials are monitoring commitments made by MNBC in their Debt Recovery Plan.
The BC Métis Federation and several Métis people in BC continue to be disappointed with the lack of actions on the part of both governments to address the financial crisis confronting programs for Métis people in BC. MNBC is insolvent and has been on the brink of bankruptcy for the last two years. Yet your governments appear to remain supportive of the MNBC and we believe have interfered in the Métis political process. For example, Métis community leaders and individuals in attendance watched the Provincial Minister of Health Michael de Jong, MLA Marc Dalton, and Federal Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain speaking in support of MNBC to delegates attending the MNBC Annual General Meeting at the end of September 2011. Their comments are on record and downloadable on utube. We are greatly concerned about the cheerleading support while not recognizing the serious financial issues MNBC has created. Of course their words on behalf of each government and how this impacts Métis people in attendance to have a false sense of MNBC success despite the fiscal realities. Meanwhile MNBC’s own audited statements presented later during this same AGM make reference that their own auditors are unsure about the ability of MNBC to carry on.
As the situation unfolds in Attawapiskat there are some clear similarities and glaring differences in how governments are handling these situations. Attawapiskat centers around an immediate housing crisis, an essential service MNBC does not provide. However, Prime Minister Harper is quoted as supporting the idea that Attawapiskat was mismanaged last week. The Attawapiskat financial statements are posted on their website for the public to review. There is no reference from the Attawapiskat auditors about the inability of Attawapiskat to carry on with operations and on the surface Attawapiskat did not create any accumulated deficit in either of the last three fiscal years. By contrast MNBC’s financial statements for their 2010-2011 operations show another annual deficit; this is the third consecutive year. If one reviews the Attawapiskat financial statements of the last three years there appears to be strong public accountability and they did not require a debt recovery plan unlike the situation in BC.
Therefore BC Métis Federation continues to demand governments understand the seriousness of the situation facing Métis programs and services in BC administered by the MNBC due to their mismanagement. Here are some glaring highlights in comparison to Attawapiskat:
|MNBC 2010-2011||Attawapiskat 2010-2011|
|11 Elected Directors||22 Chief and Council|
|Did not publicly disclose how much was spent by board on travel and salary for 2010-2011 as a separate schedule despite numerous requests. However, spent $700,000 in previous fiscal year. MNBC spent close to $1 million in total travel in 2010-2011 charged to various programs and this continues to be a major issue we believe needs strong further review.||Spent about $615,000 on salaries and travel (About 10,000 on travel and the remainder on wages)|
|Administer approximately $12 million in funding||Administer approximately $34 million in funding|
|Increased Debt this fiscal year by $475,155||Realized a surplus|
*There are many other comparisons but these are just a few glaring differences.
BC Métis Federation understands the Attawapiskat situation is complex and supports First Nation leadership who continues to raise the larger issues of Indian Act limitations, etc. However, if as the Prime Minister you have taken a position of that Attawapiskat is mismanaged, then many Métis people in BC do not understand how the Federal Government has not yet taken this position in relation to MNBC.
However BC Métis Federation does not accept how governments allow Aboriginal non-profit organizations like MNBC to receive millions in public funding while not being transparent, honest, or doing what is best for their people while going millions in debt. Neither government can say to media in this situation that you were not aware because we at the BC Métis Federation have been calling for action through written correspondence since June. We have provided MNBC and governments solutions and we know this current MNBC situation of gross mismanagement will only do more to harm public opinion.
BC Métis Federation calls on each of you as leaders to force full MNBC public accountability;
- Immediately support a full financial review of governments investments from April 1st, 2008 – March 31st, 2011
- Contract a third party to act as the trustee
BC Métis Federation will not stop our efforts until we know Métis programs and services for those most in need are protected. Doing nothing is simply not an option any further.
British Columbia Métis Federation
Suite 300-3665 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC, V5R 5W2
BCMF Board of Directors
Mary Lou Kenney, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Government of Canada
Rod Cunningham, Service Canada