The following letter was sent by the BCMF to Premier Clark and Prime Minister Harper earlier today…
Dear Premier Clark and Prime Minister Harper,
The BC Métis Federation continues our efforts to demand transparency and accountability as it relates to public funding for Métis people in British Columbia administered and delivered by the non-profit organization Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC), incorporated as the Métis Provincial Council of British Columbia. We have made numerous requests for years to MNBC for full public disclosure with absolutely no success. These concerns continue to mount and we urge each of you as leaders to read this correspondence carefully, review the facts, and understand the BC Métis Federation can and are committed to supporting solutions in the best interest of all. Therefore we request a meeting as soon as possible to discuss these matters.
Unfortunately each of your government representatives (Ministers Responsible for Aboriginal People) has remained steadfast in their support for the MNBC despite clear evidence provided by the BC Métis Federation. The BC Métis Federation has sent numerous correspondences to governments that were clear, concise, and fact based about our issues as they related to MNBC. However, at this point we believe there continues to be a concerted effort to ignore the issues by each of your governments regardless of the increasing program resources being lost each day due to the significant mismanagement by the MNBC.
I provide each of you our review of the handling of this situation by governments to date:
1. Federal Government
MNBC has been supported by senior Federal Government officials, program funding from various Federal departments, and specific Federal Government representatives. The Federal Government provides the majority of MNBC’s funding (estimated at $12 million/year) from numerous departments and programs. MNBC has dramatically increased their insolvency for the last few years and there has been absolutely no measurable action by Federal Government representatives to ensure program investments are not lost despite the efforts of BC Métis Federation to raise concerns.
Some of the results and impacts to the Federal Government are that Heritage Canada programs for Métis youth are now seriously in question and a significant amount of employment and training funding from Service Canada appears to be reduced for 2011-2012. This is created because of MNBC’s mismanagement, redirection of project resources to cover other MNBC costs, and increased inabilities to cash manage given their increasing debt. We know MNBC has now lost over $1 million in program revenues (largely employment and training services) for Métis people in 2010-2011 and we anticipate more significant losses for 2011-2012.
Despite the ongoing years of mismanagement MNBC claimed they were awarded stimulus funding of $1.45 million as of last March 2011 from you as Prime Minister and your Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Honourable John Duncan (copy enclosed). Today (over 10 months later) there has been no further information provided by MNBC to validate this claim. The BC Métis Federation has thoroughly reviewed the projects awarded funding through Canada’s Economic Action Plan and MNBC’s alleged project is not listed to date. Furthermore, it is our understanding that the Federal Government funded the MNBC Debt Recovery Plan in 2011 as a proposed solution to increasing questions and demands by Métis people in BC given MNBC’s increasing debt. However, we believe Federal Government officials have not completed important and necessary due diligence to advise and update your offices accurately to ensure this MNBC Debt Recovery Plan was followed. The MNBC Debt Recovery Plan is a miserable failure today.
2. Provincial Government
We are disappointed with the responses to date from the Provincial Government Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. I enclose a letter sent by Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Honourable Mary Polak to a Federal MP (Honourable Elizabeth May) where she once again suggests that MNBC has implemented a Debt Recovery Plan. Minister Polak writes that this will ensure a balanced MNBC budget in 2011-2012 and ensure surpluses in future years to begin to reduce the accumulated MNBC deficit. We submit that the Minister’s statements are misleading and inaccurate and we suspect her officials have not briefed her accurately.
MNBC has already reported losing $20,000 in the first quarter of this current fiscal year 2011-2012. MNBC claimed that people would be able to track their debt recovery progress each month. This MNBC commitment remains outstanding and impossible now as MNBC has not posted one new MNBC debt recovery monthly update since the release of the MNBC Debt Recovery Plan in May 2011. The BC Métis Federation has made numerous attempts to obtain an update but MNBC has not responded.
What is challenging about the Minister’s latest response is the suggestion that MNBC is somehow properly and appropriately managing this self created financial disaster. Perhaps the Minister is not informed properly or aware that MNBC announced the sudden need to sell off the school only eight days before on December 12th? Perhaps she did not realize MNBC had to close Meet-So Catering Services Ltd. in October after confessing that this attempted economic venture was not making money and therefore not a viable revenue source for the MNBC Debt Recovery Plan. These are important points as they are highlighted as essential components of the MNBC Debt Recovery Plan.
Sadly the recent MNBC economic failures point to additional significant increased financial losses by MNBC that will further impact the ability of MNBC to cash manage existing programs. In fact, we have been informed that MNBC’s bank (RBC) may have requested MNBC to sell their property and that is what prompted MNBC to make the announcement December 12th, 2011 regarding the need to sell this property.
More importantly our concern with the situation and the role of the Provincial Government is further stressed by questions surrounding the purchase of the school from School District #34 (Abbotsford School District) in June 2009. The BC Métis Federation has completed extensive research and here are some of the conclusions:
- We believe the sale of the property owned by School District #34 was made possible by the approval of the sale through the BC Minister of Education in 2009 in accordance with a revised Provincial Government policy established in September 2008.
- We know the Provincial Government has closed 194 public schools between 2001 and 2011; many of these properties remain owned by the School Districts throughout BC. At this time the MNBC made the decision to purchase the property we have discovered that there were an estimated 171 properties that had been closed by various School Districts. There were other opportunities for leasing or bids available at that time with less financial risk.
- We know that Honorable Michael De Jong (with the current Provincial Liberal Government and now the Minister of Health) is an elected MLA from Abbotsford West and has continued to be an advocate for the defense of the purchase of the school at MNBC functions.
- We know that this school location was closed in 2006. The School District #34 reopened under the name Abbottsford Traditional Middle School and relocated at 2272 Windsor Street in the same year.
- We know that School District #34 was unsuccessful in 2008 with a public tendering process for the commercial sale and disposition of this property. It remains unclear what public tendering process the School District #34 used to sell to the MNBC (located at 30691 Simpson Road tendering process #5946) in June of 2009 a year later.
- We understand School District #34, as with many School Districts in BC, faced annual Provincial Government overall budget reductions in 2010 of a reported $6.1 million.
- We have reviewed School District #34’s minutes and cannot locate any record of the decision by the trustee’s to sell this property or how this decision was reached.
- School District #34 sold the property to MNBC, for $2.2 million in June of 2009. The School District policy when selling land or property is:
Any purchaser or lessee must satisfy the Board that it has the ability to meet the financial obligation to the Board, and the Board must be satisfied that the disposition of the facility or other property is at fair market value.
What remains unclear in light of our research is how the nonprofit organization MNBC was allowed to purchase the property, satisfy the due diligence with the bank, School District #34 (as per their policy) and the Provincial Government. Also it must be noted MNBC, a nonprofit society, did not consult with their communities as required by their constitution and bylaws prior to this purchase in 2009. MNBC has not provided and feasibility study or mandatory business plan to disclose any MNBC research proving the merits of this venture for the Métis people. Less than three years later the failure of the MNBC to operate and sustain this school and property is clear and now the MNBC board have jeopardized all programs and services they were entrusted to oversee.
In closing we continue to urge your governments and officials to meet with the BC Métis Federation and consider a new alternative representative organization to support the needs of Métis people in British Columbia. Further I respectfully suggest that government officials review the facts we have presented and respond to our queries. We must ask, is this current situation due to either government’s mishandling? We believe that the evidence and research supports significant risk to both governments. As such we strongly urge your offices to review our Blueprint Document and MNBC Debt Recovery Plan Year One (sent previously to your offices). This will showcase the accuracy of our work given the current situation unfolding at the MNBC.
The ongoing financial mismanagement exhibited by this MNBC board has resulted in the loss of over $1 million in much need program dollars destined for supporting Métis people in British Columbia in only the last 12 months. The MNBC debt has been allowed to grow unmonitored and has now reached unprecedented levels. The impact to many of our Métis people in need is unjust (possibly criminal), unethical, and incredible. There is no excuse for any government to refuse to take responsible action in this situation and many of our Métis people remain puzzled that no concrete action has been exercised by either the Federal or Provincial Government? MNBC has made a few last minute efforts but these appear to be far too little, too late and the resulting losses to programming to date and in the future are unforgiveable.
Please contact me at your earliest opportunity to meet and discuss how the BC Métis Federation believes next steps can be taken. I can be reached at 1-778-388-5013.
British Columbia Métis Federation
Suite 300-3665 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC, V5R 5W2
BCMF Board of Directors
BCMF Statement of Cooperation Métis Communities