Meeting with Métis Community in Fort St. John

Métis Communities
BC Métis Federation Members

Re: Meeting with Métis Community in Fort St. John 

Members and Partners,

I write today following a meeting with the Fort St. John Métis Society, one of a number of local Métis communities in BC, held this past weekend at the local Friendship Center in Fort St. John. The meeting was part of their society requirements and included an invitation to us at the BC Métis Federation as well as the other Provincial Métis organization, Métis Nation BC. There was approximately 30 people in attendance at the meeting.

Despite past years of strong conflict and confrontations between the BC Métis Federation and Métis Nation BC the evening was respectful and issues were presented to Fort St. John Métis Society members from our two (2) provincial perspectives.

While I appreciated the cordial demeanor of the Métis Nation BC regional representative I left feeling surprised by the outcome. BC Métis Federation has a signed agreement to support Fort St. John Métis Society as one of our community partners. We do not ask anyone to choose our organization over the Métis Nation BC and we welcome all partners to work together to support Métis issues. I provided an update on key issues, shared insight on policy and answered questions from members. It appears local Métis members have chosen to remain partners with BC Métis Federation and this is appreciated.

In terms of the Métis Nation BC regional presentation I was surprised by the messages I believe were stated. This included admission Métis Nation BC has not done enough in their area, that employment and training programs and services are not supporting the local community, and much more. This is no surprise to many of us.

Since 2011 BC Métis Federation outlined six (6) issues about why we reformed and created another provincial Métis representative organization in British Columbia. Six (6) years later these specific points have all come true or remain outstanding. In this latest example the issue of Métis governance (one of the six) is featured. For example, Métis Nation BC has not supported local community capacity for an office, for communications, etc, and members raised this as part of their questions in Fort St. John. The Métis Nation BC representative said he believes this needs to be the focus. However, these are hollow words as Métis Nation BC used to support local offices with non-government funding prior to 2009 when Métis Nation BC improperly purchased the school and made many other questionable governance and financial management decisions. I encourage people to locate the previous financial statements of the Métis Nation BC (known as the Métis Provincial Council of BC) from March 31st, 2005, March 31st, 2006, and March 31st, 2007 where there was schedules to confirm community investments.

In particular, the purchase of the previous Métis school in Abbottsford, a disastrous decision as well as many others in 2009, have led to ongoing massive debt as of March 31st, 2016 (although MNBC no longer has their latest audited financial statements posted on their website). The result of this is Métis Nation BC will not be able to support local community partners with a few investment exceptions for year to come have to cover financing charges for poor business decisions of up to $440,000 annually. Imagine what could be provided to local Métis communities if Métis Nation BC did not have to pay financing charges.

The issue of governance was also further revealed as the Métis Nation BC representative had no real solutions, no plan to present, and only spoke to election style high level concepts which sound great but likely hold no grounding in reality.

The truth is Métis Nation BC continues to receive substantial ongoing consultation revenues from industry and governments and these funds, if management efficiently and effectively, would provide the Métis Nation BC and their leadership the ability to invest to the benefit of local communities. Under the insolvency of Métis Nation BC this is simply impossible.

The evening was interesting and BC Metis Federation continues to wait patiently for a response to the meeting request from Métis Nation BC. All Métis people should be coming together to have fully informed discussions about what is in the best interests of their community, members, and our culture.

I mean no disrespect to the Métis Nation BC representative, or to their leadership, but it was clear this individual was not well informed about the issues facing all Métis people. I hope we all come together one day, have real conversations and make a better future for our people in BC.

Thank you

Keith Henry

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