Métis Governance Representation in British Columbia

Dear Premier Clark and Prime Minister Harper

I write to the Federal and Provincial Governments as the situation facing the organization your governments use as a vehicle for provincial Métis engagement in British Columbia, the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC), further deteriorates. I have written to your governments in my role as the BC Métis Federation President over the course of the past year to raise serious concerns about the issues facing the MNBC and we forecasted the results of inaction. The BC Métis Federation has made your governments acutely aware through our voluntary work about the concerns regarding the misuse of Métis program resources, increased MNBC insolvency, and dysfunctional Métis governance. During this time we have corresponded over 40 times directly with your governments and 120 times directly with MNBC and therefore we believe the current deterioration of this organization can be shared equally by governments, MNBC board members, and Métis community leaders in BC who refused to deal with facts but rather political and person agendas.

This past weekend provided insight to support our claims. The MNBC held a provincial meeting where new facts reinforced BC Métis Federation concerns and criticism against MNBC. For example, we have written about outstanding payments of tuition for students funded by the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS). The ASETS program is funded by the Federal Government through Service Canada for about $6.5 million dollars annually and is one of several contracts administered by the MNBC. We have sent a number of letters to question MNBC and why there are any outstanding approved tuition payments. Let’s not forget that in 2010-2011 MNBC staff was informing Métis clients throughout BC that there were no more ASETS program resources yet when the MNBC financial statements were released last September Métis people were surprised to read MNBC had actually deferred approximately $751,000.00. Despite our repeated requests MNBC has remained silent and has refused to answer either ASETS related questions given these two issues. We sent another recent letter to a Service Canada staff that monitors the ASETS program administered by MNBC. This letter has also remained unanswered although we sent it to the Federal Government representative on February 15th. This past weekend MNBC management publicly admitted that there are currently several outstanding post secondary institutions that have yet to be paid this year for Métis people who were approved for support through the ASETS program this year. We understand MNBC was advanced the ASETS resources and is simply unable to pay – so now what? Will these Métis individuals be forgotten and MNBC allowed to carry on while completely innocent victims pay the price for MNBC gross mismanagement? What efforts, if any, were taken by the Federal Government to ensure these program resources were protected for Métis people most in need.

MNBC management also admitted this past weekend that purchasing the MNBC Abbotsford School in 2009 was one of the worst mistakes MNBC could have made. We have raised a concern about the lack of a business plan to support the purchase of the school and predicted this current overall financial crisis at the MNBC when the decision was made to purchase the property in June 2009. We believed it was an incredible risk without a strong business plan, especially without any mandate from the Métis communities or people prior to the purchase. The current MNBC leaders fought hard against our efforts to fight for full transparency on this issue and removed anyone from the MNBC organization who raised questions in criticism of this purchase despite the lack of business evidence Métis people wanted to see. We believe the MNBC board failed at this school because they have put themselves and their needs ahead of the school. Worse yet they employed family and friends who have no or very little business acumen and experience. The MNBC has been making political decisions and has not been business decision focused in any manner from day 1. The consequences have yet to be realized today but it is clear the financial impacts to MNBC will be disastrous. MNBC representatives claimed the property might have a potential buyer by June but there were no details.

Finally MNBC management was unable to provide accurate details regarding MNBC debt recovery. MNBC presented an estimation of increased losses for the fourth straight year expected during April 1st, 2011 – March 31st, 2012. Where were government officials who provided resources to the MNBC in 2011 to pay for the development of the MNBC debt recovery plan? Where is the monitoring and how could this situation ever be allowed to continue in this challenging economic time? It continues to incite frustration and disbelief. Moreover we are confident that government representatives working with MNBC either do not understand accounting or how to read financial statements given the obvious evidence within the MNBC financials already readily available. However, we were informed MNBC is undergoing a number of government audits and we hope the representatives currently completing these financial reviews will ensure an objective review to ensure Métis resources meant for Métis people are properly spent.

The MNBC has proven itself an extremely poor financial investment for governments wanting to assist Métis people throughout BC. This current MNBC board only cares for themselves and their needs. At times it appears that they want people to believe that they are the victims. This is a ridiculous notion and what message do governments believe is being sent to the thousands of Métis people watching when this kind of behavior is allowed to continue at MNBC without any real action? Many of the MNBC board members are not running for office again as the MNBC elections are coming this September. Unfortunately this MNBC uncertainty has created an unstable corporation that is ready to fully collapse and we believe should. Do governments believe MNBC is sustainable even considering the political risk to future MNBC candidates that realize in the 2010-2011 MNBC financial statements it states in note 8 that directors are personally liable for the loans? Given the financial and political turmoil we predict MNBC board positions will have minimal interest for the September elections and an extremely low voter response. That is the legacy governments and this MNBC board has left after four years and about $50 million invested for Métis people in BC. It is truly shameful.

We urge governments to take any actions possible to recoup misspent program resources and ensure this MNBC board is held fully accountable; civilly and criminally if required. It is time for governments at all levels to consider options and the BC Métis Federation provides another vehicle. The BC Métis Federation continues to rebuild relationships throughout BC. The BC Métis Federation has established a new Métis governance framework and we continue to organize and meet throughout BC seeking legitimate recognition and a mandate from Métis people. We continue to increase membership and we offer an organization without debt and no financial risk. The BC Métis Federation continues to call for a new process of reengagement with both governments as dedicated Métis people throughout the province want to establish a new relationship. We believe that despite this current turmoil we believe governments want to support and assist Métis people on priorities of education, health, housing, economic development, and other agreed areas.

The BC Métis Federation continue to engage with provincial officials and we hope federal officials, through the Office of the Federal Interlocutor, will also become engaged to better understand the volunteer efforts the BC Métis Federation continues to complete to rebuild governance.

The BC Métis Federation requests a new tripartite relationship between the Provincial Government, Federal Government, and BC Métis Federation to define a new relationship including Métis governance, education, economic development, health, housing, identification, and child and family services. I look forward to hearing from the respective officials to continue our work. They can reach me at 1-778-388-5013 or email k.henry@bcmetis.com to schedule a meeting.

[ilink url=”/wp-content/uploads/BCMF-Letter-to-Provincial-and-Federal-Governments-March-13th-2012.pdf” style=”download”]Click here to download this press release in PDF[/ilink]

Thank you,
Keith Henry
British Columbia Métis Federation
Suite 300-3665 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
V5R 5W2

cc BCMF Board Members, Members, Statement of Cooperation Métis Communities

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