BC Métis Federation Responds to Provincial Government Letter of August 16th

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Peter Cunningham
Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM)
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation

Re: Letters dated August 1st and 16th, 2012 VIA EMAIL

Dear ADM Cunningham,

I want to acknowledge receipt of your letters dated August 1st and 16th respectively. We appreciate your efforts to clarify the position of the Provincial Government in relation to the issue we have raised about the upcoming MNBC General Election. However the BC Métis Federation disagrees that the Provincial and Federal governments have not interfered in internal issues related to the Métis Nation. In fact both governments have recently repeated their position that they only recognize the Métis Nation British Columbia as the provincial representative for all Métis people in British Columbia. This official policy by governments provides significant financial benefits to the MNBC who is at serious issue, and has been for years. For example, we understand your Provincial Government funds tripartite self government negotiations resources with MNBC to dialogue about key policy issues. The question we have today is how can the Provincial Government maintain this position in light of the fact that MNBC clearly does not represent all Métis people and in effect the impacts to your government policies are not representative of the actual Métis views. Another glaring Federal Government example is the MNBC delivery of the employment and training programs. Specifically MNBC has been contracted to deliver to eligible clientele as follows:

DESCRIPTION OF ELIGIBLE CLIENTELE The MPCBC provides services in seven regions in BC for all Aboriginal Persons across the province of BC and specific training support services to Métis persons. The seven regional points of service and program offices are located in: Region 1 – Vancouver Island (Nanaimo), Region 2 – Lower Mainland (Surrey), Region 3 – Thompson-Okanagan (Kamloops), Region 4 – Kootenays (Cranbrook), Region 5 – North Central (Prince George), Region 6 – Northwest (Terrace), and Region 7 – Northeast (Fort St. John). There are 59,445 Métis people living in the province of BC. MPCBC serves all Aboriginal people and provides employment and training services throughout the entire province.

Eligible Clientele: All Aboriginal people residing in the above-noted geographic catchment area. Clients are typically unemployed, underemployed and/or face multiple barriers to employment and training.

The issue here is once more how MNBC, through the MPCBC, is contracted to deliver services to all self identified Métis people in BC despite the fact that MNBC does not represent all Métis people and our community organizations and members do not receive such services. These are only examples to illustrate the points how both governments interfere directly and indirectly in the political will of the Métis people of BC by refusing to ensure funding is actually representative of the larger Métis community.

The MNBC General Election is illegal according to their MNBC Constitution and Legislation and I will reinforce this as it appears government responses indicate no further action will be taken in terms of options such as suspending funding, etc:

1. Section 32 of the MNBC Constitution states:

a. The Mètis Nation Governing Assembly shall meet at least once per year on thirty days notice…”

i. On July 12th MNBC called for an MNGA vote on four days notice, this is contrary to their legal requirements in their Constitution.

1.Today MNBC approved their Chief Electoral Officer as an alleged result of this illegal vote.

2. Article 4 “Voting and Quorum” of the Métis Nation Governing Assembly Act states:

a. Fifty percent plus one of the Métis Nation Governing Assembly constitutes quorum…

i. MNBC admitted publicly only 21 votes were cast and we understand the MNGA membership to be 44, therefore there could not have been quorum.

b. Roll call voting shall be the method of voting…

i. The manner in which MNBC called for an MNBC vote, while not meeting the Constitutional requirement of 30 days notice in the first place, also was not permitted according to their Métis Nation Governing Assembly Act.

ii. Such voting could be permitted is an amendment was proposed and approved but this process would take at least one year.

iii. There is no provisions to allow a vote by fax, email, or phone polling.

3. Section 3.6 of the Electoral Act states:

a. Means a contractor appointed in writing after approval of the Métis Nation Governing Assembly.

i. MNBC did not follow their legal 30 days notice, appears to have approved a Chief Electoral Office in contravention of their own laws and without quorum by using a method of voting not allowed.

The BC Mètis Federation has continued to take action and is reviewing legal options to file an injunction to stop the MNBC General Election. Métis communities, who are MNGA members as you suggest, are speaking out and refusing to have an MNBC polling station. The evidence is compounded in light of the fact 11 out of 25 MNBC elected positions did not have a single candidate run.

We strongly disagree with your letter of August 16th in that governments have completely interfered in Métis governance in BC by refusing to take actions or have meaningful engagement to protect the interests of all Métis people in BC. Governments and MNBC use language that MNBC if funded to provide programs and services for all Métis people but in the same breath MNBC has set up a structure for a very select few. As such BC Métis Federation and a number of Métis communities are now being forced to consider legal action as our final option to force action.

We have maintained that there are solutions. Unfortunately the Federal and Provincial governments have chosen to support a functionally bankrupt MNBC that is holding an illegal election. MNBC could not even field enough candidates to fill 25 positions (11 did not have any candidate apply) and there are major regions of BC that will not have representation any further with MNBC. We view these government actions as discriminatory and a complete breech of the fiduciary duty to protect the legal interest of all Métis people in BC.

It is our view that this was preventable had actions been taken some time ago as requested by the former Coalition of Concerned Mètis Citizens, BC Mètis Federation, and numerous Métis people and communities. We have this well documented to support our view in future steps.

Thank you,

Keith Henry,
President

British Columbia Métis Federation
Suite 300-3665 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5W2

CC:

Premier, Christy Clark, Province of British Columbia
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Government of Canada
Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Honourable Scott Fraser, Critic for Aboriginal Relations
Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Federal Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic
Honourable Jean Crowder, NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic
BC Métis Federation Board Members
BC Métis Federation Members

Downloads:

Click here to download the MARR correspondences of August 1st and 16th, 2012 Click here to download the BCMF letter to Provincial and Federal Governments in PDF.

 

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4 Responses to BC Métis Federation Responds to Provincial Government Letter of August 16th

  1. Earlene Bitterman August 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Good Evening,

    I have read your response to the Federal Government, and I believe they are just as confused as to who Metis people are and who they should be servicing. Government understands that they owe a fiduciary duty to us as Metis citizens but who exactly are ‘THE METIS”. Many self declare but have no ties to continuous community associated by kinship. Recently new undertaking established by the federal government called “The Aboriginal Peoples Committee of the Senate” whom has undertaken a study on Métis identity. Where is the community direction?

    I just listened to the Metis matters radio show tonight with the President and Vice President of BCMF and Historians George and Terry Goulet whom where discussing Metis Identity. I think this topic should be open to dicussion with canada wide historians and the community as a whole before developing a stance in this regard. Our families have been fighting for generations within the scrip issue and I think it needs to be clear within the policies of the BCMF and its membership criteria. I am confused on what exactly is the direction of the BCMF in the future with government both provincial and federal.

    The Federal and provincial government are well aware of the mistakes of the past with our communities, in regards to the scrip systems. I am getting lost in the political direction of the BCMF and its perception of our historical legality. There needs to be a research paper establishing the BCMF’s direction, and guidance from our community and elders. I understand the powley decision, and the subsequent court cases that are molding our identity within canada. These challenges also include continual use which leaves a lot of non-traditional (non-harvesters) Metis out of the rights bearing picture by court definition.

    Clarify BCMF’s direction, are we cementing our place based upon our historical lineages and shared community collective community experience, or is the BCMF forming a new direction, it is unclear. BCMF must work on Metis rights but there was too many holes provided in the arguments tonight in regards to establishment of a concrete base to fight government perceptions of who we are.

    Keep up the fight

    Earlene Bitterman
    Whitford Genealogy

  2. Keith August 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    All good points Earlene and appreciate the great dialogue,

    What I can say is that the Metis identity issue must be further discussed with our membership and communities in BC. Yes the legal cases are out there further examining the legal parameters of Metis rights, but in my opinion the cases are minimizing Metis rights and frankly at times not that helpful.

    This is a complex conversation and one that needs continued dialogue.

    BC Metis Federation will ensure Metis people have a voice in any future discussions. Today we have membership through clear historical connections to identified Metis communities and families.

    Take care

  3. Earlene Bitterman August 22, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    I agree with you. The governments have put millions of dollars in development of a registry to enable our Nation to move forward after the Powley case. In the past it has taken a long time to get the government to release the scrip documents. My mother was working with Mr. Sinclair for years in the who was digitizing Metis scrip within Canadian archives doing research . It was a great injustice to many families who were displaced by Westward expansion that was meant to build a railroad on the backs of the “halfbreed” people. A process to wipe out the very aboriginal entitlement of a whole population.

    We do owe a great debt to Harry Daniels who had us written into the constitution or we would be no where today, now just to narrow that section 35 within the government’s policy in regards to a collective ” who we are”. The identity issue was created by the government as they knew policies that sanctioned families into categories would through a perverbial wrench into arguments for decades. Your ‘status, ‘non-status, Metis, or Indian’…. while the truth is that these very categories have divided families brothers against sisters etc. who shared kinships. This further ripped apart the community – and In my opinion conquest is easier done when the community is in turmoil.

    A prime example is Kelly lake, who’s treaty card holders fought those that we’re Metis and visa versa, but they are all related. Another prime example in Terminology First Nations being used as in the Sturgeon Lake band who was founded by William Bremner who was a “halfbreed”. When studying genealogy the rationale behind arguments become blurred by politics.

    Community is our Identity and vice-a-versa our communities define it- through CONSULTATION

    Earlene

    PS. I enjoyed the movie Grey Owl where he had Indian status and even visited the Queen of England. As a footnote regarding status, and what the government recognizes as rights in the past and now has to change, and BCMF needs to open this dialogue sooner than later to clear the political waters of our community as a whole.

  4. Earlene Bitterman August 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    FYI
    Legal and political recognition of Métis identity in Canada
    Transcripts & Minutes
    The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples 2012

    The fully translated and edited copy of the evidence is posted on the committee’s site within a few weeks of a hearing. If you wish to receive a copy of testimony before the committee sooner, please send an e-mail message to the clerk and a copy of the unrevised floor transcript for the meeting will be sent to you by electronic mail as it becomes available. Please note that the transcript you receive will only be in the language actually used during the meeting. If you wish to cite an unrevised transcript, please obtain the consent of the person who spoke.

    Legal and political recognition of Métis identity in Canada

    Issue No. 22, June 20, 2012
    Issue No. 21, June 12 (in camera) and June 13, 2012
    Issue No. 20, June 5 (in camera) and June 6, 2012
    Issue No. 19, May 29, and May 30, 2012
    Issue No. 18, May 15, and May 16, 2012
    Issue No. 16, May 1, and May 2, 2012
    Issue No. 15, April 3, April 24 and April 25, 2012
    Issue No. 14, March 14, March 27 and March 28, 2012

    LINK: http://www.parl.gc.ca/SenCommitteeBusiness/CommitteeTranscripts.aspx?parl=41&ses=1&Language=E&comm_id=1

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