BC Métis Federation Statement on VMCS Decision

One of the partner communities, Vancouver Métis Citizens Society (VMCS), notified BC Métis Federation of their intention to terminate their agreement with the BC Métis Federation signed in 2011. The BC Métis Federation leadership was not surprised by this decision in light of several recent actions which ran contrary to the agreement.

A statement is released today to the hundreds of BC Métis Federation members, some of which are members of the VMCS, to assure these individuals that there will be another avenue in the near future to move forward with the BC Métis Federation.

It is clear VMCS leadership did not consult their members and this decision was made by a small handful of ill informed individuals who have political differences of opinion with the BC Métis Federation.  Therefore the BC Métis Federation statement released today is to provide an overview of the efforts and evidence showcasing how BC Métis Federation representatives attempted to meet VMCS leadership for months. VMCS leadership ignored and refused numerous efforts and by their actions have once again demonstrated the failure of Métis communities to work together for the greater good.

Below is the BCMF’s response to the termination letter.

Members, Partner Communities and Partner Organizations

BC Métis Federation

Re: Vancouver Métis Citizens Society 

Dear members and partners;

Recently the board of the Vancouver Metis Citizens Society (VMCS) provided notice to terminate its Statement of Cooperation (SOC) agreement with the BC Mètis Federation. The board of the BC Métis Federation acknowledges that some will choose to alienate from the support of political organizations like BC Métis Federation. The choice is always theirs as we respect and support the ideas that there are “many ways of being Métis” and some will choose to deny outside political support. However, those Métis members who are impacted by this decision need to hear the facts:

1. Since inception in 2011, the BC Métis Federation has shifted political direction from negative identity politics and culture wars in British Columbia towards a positive role in facilitating competing interests among communities and ‘nations’ who decided they would benefit from our support.

2. The BC Métis Federation has supported a principled view that asserts the distinctiveness of Métis communities and ‘nations’ but also the interdependence of Métis with other Métis and with Canadians. As well, there are international discussions about Métis identity taking shape. These are exciting times to be Métis.

3. It is our view that Métis people and groups everywhere have every right of freedom of association and to choose to be ‘distinct’ as they position themselves for whatever goals, political or otherwise. Yet, Métis are undeniably more than a ‘cultural appreciation club’ in a location. Their interconnected histories have influenced the shape of our country.

4. There is currently an international shift away from restrictive views of Métis identity towards Métis self determination, self government and self sufficiency, somewhat similar to that of First Nations style of self government, with a plurality of communities and ‘nations’ and a plurality of national or regional political organizations as support.

5. As well, the fluidity of Métis histories and claims to land and resources are only just beginning to be understood in BC and the lower mainland. Canadians, academia, governments and industry and other institutions like our courts are only just beginning to grasp ideas like mutual recognition and respect between Canadians of ‘difference’ this includes Métis with histories in the Greater Vancouver region as well as their links with other Metis and First Nations across Canada and into the United States.

6. BC Métis Federation signed a relationship agreement (attached SOC) with the leadership of the VMCS in September 2011 after several community meetings and efforts made to clarify the vision of the BC Métis Federation.

7. Over the year a number of efforts have been made to respect the terms of the agreement such as partnership on community events, attending VMCS meetings, jointly addressing issues, resources for VMCS participation to attend BC Métis Federation meetings, VMCS administration support, and many other initiatives.

8. There appeared to be concerns initially raised since November by current VMCS President Ron Paradis about issues related to the BC Métis Federation, which are to this day yet to be clarified by VMCS despite repeated requests by BC Métis Federation for a meeting and clarification. VMCS made absolutely no effort to properly define the issues or address as per the signed SOC in September 2011 in relation to the agreed Dispute Resolution process. The SOC defines the terms of the Dispute Resolution process for both the VMCS and BC Métis Federation which in our view has not been respected by the VMCS leadership.

9. VMCS leadership was contacted by BC Métis Federation representatives over twenty (20) occasions since November by phone, direct facebook messages and emails requesting meetings to address. VMCS leadership never responded to a single request or even had the respect to answer any questions or meet as required in the SOC.

The actions of the current VMCS leadership are purely political in nature and are likely without the support or knowledge of their members. VMCS leadership has not respected the actual signed SOC agreement provisions or process. Moreover by the simple nature of the VMCS letter it is unclear about whether there was a board motion behind this decision and what was the membership’s role, many of which also have a BC Métis Federation membership? Were the members informed about VMCS leadership decisions or concerns relating to the BC Métis Federation to determine this serious step? If they were informed about VMCS concerns why was their no effort by VMCS leadership to allow BC Métis Federation to speak to the board or members to answer, which we pushed for, the last three months?

While unfortunate we anticipated this political move by the VMCS leader Mr. Ron Paradis as he has been also trying to follow up with BC Métis Federation members and partners to share his negative remarks against the BC Métis Federation. BC Métis Federation is in receipt and has evidence of his commentary on social media and other communications to validate his point of view. However his remarks lack accuracy and are purely personal in nature without any actual foundation or truth.

Given this situation BC Métis Federation is reviewing options and will ensure a community representation in Vancouver and area in the near future as we have hundreds of card carrying BC Métis Federation members. The other VMCS Métis members will vote with their feet and can notify me by email (k.henry@bcmetis.com) if interested to restore a community organization going forward to serve your interests.

It is also important for other VMCS Métis members to support or elect politicians or political groups who work on their behalf in a principled manner and truly put their long term best interests first, as Métis and as Canadians. There can be no doubt that acrimony and personal bitterness of VMCS leadership has clouded the judgment of key leaders or influencers to support the decision of VMCS to terminate the SOC. A select few have decided to define themselves by who they are against politically. We feel their arbitrary decision to terminate the agreement is shortsighted, not following due process, and was dictated not from the voice of VMCS members, but by personal agendas of a few. This has resulted in a demonstrated lack of good faith in due process by ignoring process signed between the BC Métis Federation and VMCS. The danger is that ending a relationship amidst negativity influences how the VMCS moves forward as Métis reconcile with Canada. Members of VMCS and their families risk being isolated from the opportunity to facilitate and influence this broad conversation about the future of Métis. In addition BC Métis Federation continues to advance the human rights case again the Government of Canada, advance as interveners in the Daniels Case, and realize ongoing support where possible for the VMCS and al partner organizations. There is no questions that there is never enough resources for BC Métis Federation to properly assist community based organizations such as VMCS and others but it is up to our leaders to address concerns and issues in a forthright manner which has not been afforded by VMCS in this situation whatsoever.

The reality is that in this rapidly shifting political, legal and cultural landscape, Métis people and families need the positive support and added resources of an organization that has proven commitment to local community expression and expression of indigenous values in broader society. These actions by VMCS leadership only add another layer of division for Métis members throughout British Columbia.

Regardless BC Métis Federation will be moving forward and we encourage our Vancouver area members to watch for next steps as we proceed with our alternative planning as we had anticipated this VMCS strategy. Our next steps must not be appreciated and understood as unfortunately VMCS leaders appear to be acting without due diligence, problem solving and political maneuvering and we have to accept this and move forward. Ultimately the ideal scenario would have been for VMCS and BC Métis Federation leadership to sit and meet to address disputes as we requested for three (3) months and defined in our signed agreement. VMCS leadership has decided otherwise and we will honour and respect that.

Please contact me via email if interested in supporting the community based organization in Vancouver via email. Our office will also be calling all members in the area to advise them of our next steps and we will be arranging a community meeting to provide clarity to the situation.

[ilink url=”http://bcmetis.com/wp-content/uploads/BC-Metis-Federation-Letter-re-VMCS-Decision-March-2nd-2015-V2.pdf style=”download”]Click here to download a PDF version of the BCMF Statement[/ilink]

[ilink url=”http://bcmetis.com/wp-content/uploads/Termination-of-SOC-with-BCMF-February-25th-2015.pdf” style=”download”]Click here to download a PDF version of the VMCS Termination Letter[/ilink]

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