One Métis Woman’s Opinion
This is one Métis woman’s opinion; I have witnessed the saddest day for the Métis people this weekend during the Métis Nation British Columbia’s (MNBC’s) Métis Nation Governing Assembly (MNGA).
At the MNGA, I witnessed the ousting of a Métis (Elder) while I was confused about processes and what has taken place to remove Ken Fisher from Surrey based on a perceived Conflict of Interest due to his role with the BC Métis Federation, an alleged competing organization for the MNBC.
Follow me through my experience and opinions in this letter and then develop some of your own. I am certain you will find the opinions worth the time to explore and develop your own views.
I witnessed a Métis leader, Elder, (and as he would prefer to be identified as ‘older’ rather than Elder) removed from service of duties and responsibilities to his role within the MNGA. The manner in which it was done lends to my personal opinions and is shared without prejudice.
As a Métis Older, he has committed over a decade of service to the British Columbia Métis people. His contribution came at a time when barely any organizational structure existed for Métis in the province of British Columbia. As a Métis Older, he himself has humbly shared to the MNGA table representatives and observers, that he does not title himself as a Métis Elder. He further explains the understanding of the term Elder and its meaning to him is that of First Nations traditional reflection of the knowledge keepers of the group. In comparison he will reflect that to him this is a form of a knowledge keeper, who he refers to as standing in the observation area now. He shares and openly discloses that is the knowledge keeper he consults with for wisdom. He himself is not claiming his own wisdom as fully earned title as yet. He shares he is still seeking to learn, ask questions and potentially hopes to acquire the wisdom he seeks from his Métis knowledge keeper that guides to him.
Mr. Fisher has dedicated tirelessly to the service of the Métis. I have witnessed his excellence in service and dedication lend to demonstrated role modeling in exercising and specializing in:
- Maintaining order and governance
- Following processes
- Attention to small and large details
- Assurance in questioning matters for factual understanding of issues and sound rational behind decisions exists.
- Relaying factual information on decisions, appropriate information sharing and his translations of the issues from the tables to the associations to the organizational structures he contributes.
- Maintains strict confidentiality of governance within the roles he holds and demonstrates sound practice principles exercised in each role and addresses “issues” as identified by need and priorities.
- Demonstrates a high regard and sense of responsibility to governance, his people and being of services with integrity and pride.
- Demonstrates decades of volunteerism in building infrastructure for Métis associations, societies and organizations with little to no funding existing.
- Services developments in areas of Métis self-governance, Métis child welfare and accountability to the Métis people first and foremost. These service development areas which have been initiated and supported through his contribution started with no funding, nor being rooted in any financial supports and then becoming operational.
- Future visions and goals expressed in a clear understanding that many services have not yet secured successful funding to meet operations to meet the capacity of services needed for Métis people.
This is how the Métis Nation BC was allegedly built, fought for and thrived to arrive at today’s Métis governance. It is the results of the works of many being done before we arrived here to become service delivery for our Métis people. All the works of the MNGA representatives at the table contribute; however is not the only work being done for our Métis people.
It is important to remember that the roots of our resilience as Métis people stems from the efforts led by Louis Riel. His blood runs in our veins, his tenaciousness runs in our spirit, and his will for our Métis people to rise, is a direct result of Louis Riel’s works and the works we should keep seeing in recognizing in each other.
Today I watched a governance structure ousted a Métis Older from the flock. The same flock of Métis sisters and brothers who benefit from his contribution resulting from his monumental leadership to pave the way. So I have to question then; what is the premise of the group to remove the Métis Older from such a role, responsibilities and contribution seat?
I listened carefully as I hear the reasons for taking such a position against him to remove from the MNGA. The reasons range from the position that he`s in a conflict of interest. However, is he?
The members of this group begin with perceived conflict suggested. When the Métis Older asks for evidence of real conflict? He is provided with holding a seat as a director with another (BC Métis Federation) organization as the cause of conflict concluding them to force him from his position exercising the organizational legislation. The Métis Older again asks, do you have proof or evidence for me to examine in whom this is based, if so present it for me to look at.
His response alone prompts my curiosity, was he even given a discussion prior to clarify or answer this question reasonably?
The table of Métis representatives proceed to identify that the cause for concern is that the Métis Older is a director with the BC Métis Federation. The conflict of interest is that BC Métis Federation is opposing the values of MNBC/MNGA’s work. The perceived conflict of interest is the rational for why MNBC/MNGA is exercising their legislation which states “one to be actively engaged, solely or with others, to damage or destroy this table’s organization. They express that the responsibility of this table is to protect the fabric of the Métis communities and Métis citizenship from those who do.”
The Métis Older`s response; show me where I have done this, how I have done this act or perceived act. I have again been elected as President of an association to represent them, I continue to hold a directors seat at BC Métis Federation organization and I am also a Métis citizen of Métis Nation BC too. I have declared all these to this table and organization, the association and the other existing organization I am a director with. I have disclosed to each of them and duly informed all and have their full trust in me to do so.
He continues to share his over a decade of contributions as being open, honest and meaningful for all Métis. He shares that this current organization of MNGA/MNBC that is questioning him has in fact honoured him with a prestigious recognition of the order of the sash in 2007 for his contributions to the Métis Nation BC itself, He continues to ask; how can this when no evidence exists?
The responses which come from various Métis Nation BC representatives are what assist me in developing an opinion which results in feeling ashamed as a Métis person. I witnessed the words said to a Métis Older; formed opinions from the group at this MNGA table. The Métis Older is posing questions back to the group for clarification and understanding amongst his Métis brothers and sisters which he`s worked with and on behalf of for years.
The answers surprise me and made my heart sink into a place in which my Métis pride was no longer felt. I am deeply disappointed, despaired by the comments and my hope for a collective Métis working together has lost its wings.
The opinions expressed here are recalled as closely as possible to the origins of the time they were spoken and documented;
- We have taken attacks from the BC Métis Federation which hurts the fabric of our work. The directors seat you hold there is taking sides with the ‘Demi-God, Keith Henry’ who you follow who has done this and you sit as a director at that organization.
The Métis Older takes defense saying; those kinds of comments are out of order! Demi-God, totally out of line here! I have always disclosed my position(s), my activities and my desire and work has and does always reflect the best interests of and for All Métis. He further shares that Keith Henry has a good Métis heart and is a good person; he is also a Métis brother to us all, we should not be turning against each other.
Other opinions shared were by various MNGA representatives at this table:
- That organization and our organization is like other politics, if you are Liberal you don`t go sit in the NDP`s camp. You can’t take a seat at both; you need to choose which camp you are going to be in.
- Traditionally if we were speaking that way, it’s like being on a buffalo hunt and if one hunter scares the buffalo and wrecks the hunt then we have to address this.
- Typically if that happened then the riders bridle and saddle straps were cut and that is how this hunter would be managed back then.
The Métis Older is asking many questions, for clarification, for unity and not division as Métis people. He now asks that if he is being removed, he requests that the vice president of the Nova Métis Association he`s representing here today be his replacement. The rational he provides is to ensure and assure that the best interests of the Métis within this association continue to be represented at the MNGA table. He is denied this request and advised that his whole association will go unrepresented until the next term. The seat will remain empty per this MNBC/MNGA organizations guideline of governance.
Not just one voice silenced and removed, but many will be silenced as a result. Their elected leadership on their behalf will no longer be able to represent their interests, their voices or their concerns or needs. The Nova Métis Association will go unrepresented and unacknowledged as a Métis group of people under the MNBC/MNGA guidelines.
Here are my questions and opinions as a Métis citizen of both Métis Nation BC and the BC Métis Federation:
‘When the legislation of a Nation states they desire to protect the fabric of Métis communities and Métis citizenship from those who would actively engage, solely or with others to damage or destroy it.’
- What if the action taken today is a perfect example of acting in contradiction to this nations own legislation which appears to exclude a whole Métis associations membership voices from being represented
- What if BC Métis Federation who is a representative of multiple Métis Communities and Métis Citizens is being damaged by a sister organization and its legislative Métis Governance? Does exclusion reflect solely or jointly by the MNBC and the MNGA group results in damage to this Métis community itself? Is this not a contradiction to this The Métis Nations own values and philosophy.
- What if the there was no facts to support true conflict of interest by the Métis Older, what if it doesn`t exist and only perceived conflict exists and this decision is made in perceived fear resulting in lack of trust.
- What if this Métis Older`s actions actually demonstrated he has in fact acted with transparency and is transparent and his removal had the potential to be based in fear rather than factual foundations.
- What if this Métis Older`s values and beliefs of accountability are presented as questioning processes, asking for clarification and persisting to press the delicate issues which need to be addressed until they are resolved, is it seen as a threat in place of being accountable. Is this not in fact his role as his elected association deeming this as his duties to fulfill on their behalf?
- What if this Métis Older`s invitation to see the BC Métis Federation President as a Métis brother with a good heart is also the same message he is giving about this MNBC Organization and the MNGA members in leadership. What if he was acting with integrity and equitably representing them organizations fairly and in a unified and collective view? Seeing and knowing the best in our Métis leadership from both views.
- What if this Métis Older is actively engaged in weaving the fabric of the Métis communities and Métis Citizenship in a positive, actively engaged, solely or with others to improve the Métis relationships to create harmony and unified focus on issues rather than personalities or preferences which is actually weaving the Métis Nation’s Fabric strength?
- What if this was a perceived fear based decision? Would this indicate a weakness as a nation who cannot and will not answer to its Métis people, Métis Communities or compete fairly in the shared caring of BC Métis peoples?
- Who decides what is deemed damaging or destroying the fabric
- What is the fabric exactly; when today’s collective decision directly resulted in harming an association of Métis people by not having their representative represent their interests at this table. And no replacement is acceptable even when posed.
- What is exactly measured or measurable as damageable behaviour or destructive? And when and who will be measuring the damages done when a nation refuses to answer to the Métis people.
- When questioning takes place by our Métis people, associations, political bodies through comments are deemed destructive, then when is refusal to answer to the people and seen as equitably destructive?
- Who defines these as reasonable cause and more importantly; are the factual caused basis?
- When is healthy questioning and examining for accountability deemed as damaging and destructive
- If you don’t like how relationships are currently going, have you explored and discussed how you would prefer to be spoken with and about, shared practices, shared governance, shared decisions making and treatment of each other?
- Who decides or is allowed to decide under the law and human rights, which one can be affiliated with, on what level and in what ways. When does this bridge into other intrusive aspects of a personal human rights and freedoms.
- When does our choice to be affiliated with an association, membership, group, hobby, social relationships cease to become our rights? And who gets to determine if that organization, service provider or child in the welfare system needs help, gets help? Or who is excluded from getting help.
- When does personal bias bleed into potential dictatorship over associations, service providers, communities and children and families?
- How far does the sword of dictatorship and demanding one needs to choose a camp to sit in go? In my opinion it goes right into the heart of the issues being displayed as conquer and divide right down to our children and when necessary, at the expense of our children.
- Is this how we are leading by example?
- Is this how we lead a pathway for our children to follow our example?
Now wouldn’t that be a real shame if in fact everyone lost perspective and didn’t do their homework on the issues and replaced facts with agendas, personal bias and leveraging political agendas to empire build at the cost of their Métis brothers and sisters affiliated within and outside. Rest assured I’m seeing matters from the inside and from the outside and it doesn’t look hopeful. It personally terrifies me to become so aware that one can no longer afford to excuse the harms being done to each other.
- How we as Métis socialized, what we join, how we socialize and with whom.
- When does this flexing political muscle work its way into our personal lives and then deemed to be used against each of us when we advocate for the best interests of others at a public seat in which we have openly and transparently declared conflicts.
- Is the bias greater than a Métis child, and Métis Older, a Métis society and/or a Métis association?
- How often have we not been heard on issues we advocate for on behalf of a Métis association, as a Métis service provider, or Métis community member
- Is the absence of support on issues with our children and families a result of bias`s based on personal or professional affiliations?
- Are we not able or is it not willing, to tackle issues because we cannot get past the personal bias being held?
- Are the direct comments of labeling and announcing publicly the statement of “Demi God Keith Henry” slanderous in nature to his character and profession?
- Are not a groups mentality of this ‘Demi God Keith Henry’ reference receiving clapping and cheering in the observers section, while MNGA representatives hands pounding on the tables at the same time now seen to what can be noted as Bullying and Harassment legislation under the BC Provincial Bullying and Harassment Legislation of Work Safe BC. The actions of one or by a group against an individual lends to this being a potential example to look at as a serious concern.
- When and how often has this been the root of the fabric of a Métis legislation which is being torn apart by bias whilst the issues of importance go unaddressed as the cost?
- Does questioning an organization become true a democratic system though the exact nature of demonstrating the ability to withstand being questioned, examined, challenged, and rise to answer the tough questions again and again?
- When does one Métis groups needs proceed another’s and potentially and more often at the expense of each other.
- Should true democracy not be supported by everyone whether; provincially, association and groups wise, if it’s not then is it really a Métis Nation level perspective
- When democracy is is exercised and demonstrated responses that address the questions and meet the needs then its true democracy. The opposite then would be the inability of a democratic table to take questions, nor permits being questioned. Is this not in itself questionable democratically, if not flawed?
The nature of democracy itself is to appoint representatives or provincial organizations, associations or groups whose interests are shared and their activities collectively represented and in need of a voice. The efforts of each and all parties should demonstrate the ability, responsibility and with respectful authority; operate and negotiate on behalf of and represent the Métis peoples interests, if indeed that is the real goal of both organizations, service providers, associations and Métis people working for Métis people.
It is this Métis Woman`s opinion that today’s witnessing of how a system exercises is power can be of potential determent to its own people.
I question the legality of the actions during this recent MNGA as potentially breaching on human rights violations. The tip of the iceberg; I question ethically and morally if this was the right process to publically have the motions? Was conversations taken with the Métis Older prior, the tip of the iceberg. Have the concerns been addressed respectfully and privately with the Métis older for exploration as real or perceived conflict or fear based perceptions. In my value system how it was done today is at least a moral issue of great concern. Was the decision based in facts of his actions or decisions? If his actions or decisions did in fact result in this decision by the group, then why did he seem surprised and confused by the group?
Why were the observers of the session permitted to clap and cheer at the processes and comments made in the working groups comments to the Métis Older. Is this not a public display of humiliation, why the absence of intervening. Instead the lack of intervening appeared to permit the behavior to be encouraged and supported to continue. I had seen no one address this act as out of order and out of conduct. The only voice spoken to this clapping response was the Métis Older`s voice asking for this clapping to stop at once and be called to order. In my opinion this ceasing to state the order as requested and advised by the Métis Older was perceived as an act of humiliation on top of a difficult and sensitive situation impacting his integrity. There are laws that address acts such as these which could fall again under Work Safe BC Bullying and Harassment legislation whether it happens singularly or by a group.
Why was it permitted to proceed with a sensitive matter impacting this Métis Older’s reputation, dignity and accusing. The presentation and handling of these processes were not clear enough to this observer to be known as factual, perceived or real conflicts done.
- Was the permitted addition of public humiliation necessary?
- Why did that not get called to order?
- How is this democratic, respectful, and legitimate in nature or trusting?
- Is this the example of Métis respect, human respect, and human dignity?
- Does this day’s meeting not stimulate thoughts of contradictions when your basis for removing the Métis Older from the processes is identified as problematic due to his affiliation with BC Métis Federation and the perceived damage of this leadership’s style and approach? When in fact representatives at the MNGA and MNBC directors negatively labeled Mr Keith Henry, President of the BC Métis Federation, potentially smiting and bringing reputational harm to his professional career. In my opinion it seems a contradiction in standards of expectation and behaviour.
So the questions I now have to ask myself and many of you will need to ask yourselves is; which one of us is next to be ousted? To be labeled, name called? Humiliated? Demanded to choose our affiliations to side against each other or face exclusion, ousting with a side order of disrespect and with a second helping of humiliation?
When will I or you be denied opportunities to represent the issues, are each of you willing to be treated this way? Perhaps one of your children going into leadership should be trained early for the unexpected treatment seen today.
All should be second guessing, and or the next time I speak up or question matters is I or you to become the labeled Demi-God. What is the cost if you speak up from the position of or on behalf of a Métis Older, a Métis child, what will it cost you when you make effort to advocate for others or each other. What is the cost of using my Métis voice when I need to intervene? When is One Métis Woman’s Opinion going to have consequences of its own? Everyone should be watching to see.
After writing this One Métis Woman`s Opinion, I suspect I will be next. I`m okay with that, really I am. The power of the Métis voice is to address the “issues”. So take a seat on the issues before us and let’s not take sides against each other. Who among you will rise to the occasion? Let the David’s of the world stand up when the Goliaths need to be called or order.
What I do know after witnessing this Métis Older`s treatment by a group, is that I don`t want to be thanked this way after a decade of contribution to our Métis people. I don`t want to be witness to this form of treatment of a Métis Older done like this again.
And if my voice matters or mattered at any time, today is the day I want it to be heard loud, clear and void of conflict of interest.
I am clear that my interest rests in respectful treatment of our Métis Olders, people who have built our organizations, associations and our Métis services. This includes those at this table who have worked hard to continue growth.
This includes others who have come before each of you, one being Keith Henry himself who contributed to this table too. He has since become the Métis peoples elected voice to be within the BC Métis Federation as a direct result of not belonging within the MNBC circle. Where do Métis people go when Métis Nation BC isn’t seeing all Métis as valuable and deserving to be valued? When can we wrap our arms around the issues together and stop sticking our fingers into the pies of yesterday’s mistakes and unforgiveness.
The Métis Older; Ken Fisher, a strong contributor to where Métis Nation BC and BC Métis Federation benefit from and by his works which result in today’s organizational leadership. Each seat at both organizations should reflect gratitude and respect. The Métis Older-Ken Fisher who took a stand today and said the words I won’t forget ‘Regardless of this`, I stand Métis Strong and Proud.’
I hung my head in shame today as a Métis person watching the decisions made. I felt shame today as a Métis person as I heard the clapping which fostered humiliation upon a Métis Older in place of respect and reverence which should have been given.
I cried today as watched helplessly as a Métis Older stood alone and unsupported in a room full of his peers he worked shoulder to shoulder with for over a decade and without his contribution most of them wouldn’t have a seat at this table to sit in to have a Métis voice.
There was an analogy made during the expressed concern brought up by the Métis Older around the Métis child in care that made the news headlines and concerned for shared support over the matter should be a priority for this table. The response was an analogy of Métis child welfare being seen as an iceberg, that only a small portion of facts are seen on top but bigger issues lay underneath which no one knows or sees and are highly confidential.
I wonder if this Métis Older even seen the tip of this iceberg here, he certainly was forced to see what rested beneath for him today. As learned from the titanic, what rests on top as the iceberg is a forewarning of what lies beneath that can take down a ship without warning. Let’s hope for all our sakes history doesn’t repeat itself here noted in the analogy. It can take a Métis child, a Métis Older, and many others with it without preparing you for a chance at survival as you run right into it like a titanic.
Here is One Métis Woman’s Opinion to consider as a final thought; when I compared the two organizations mandate, principles and values it would appear that Métis Nation British Columbia and British Columbia Métis Federation are actually aligned with the same values, goals and desired outcomes for British Columbia Métis. So this calls to question, is this about conflict of interests at all, if so in what way and on based on who’s and on what perception? It would appear more factual that BC Métis Federation and Métis Nation BC have complimentary leadership goals and aligned values for Métis people in British Columbia. So does this strongly lend to the truth being they are more competitive organizations than oppositional. Is this more likely the real challenge? If this is in fact true, how fortunate we Métis are to have choice and freedom of choice and strong leadership in both organizations competing for us as Métis in BC.
If we do indeed have aligned values and complimentary goals reflected in both Métis organizations, wouldn’t that be Louis Reil’s vision and hope for us. I believe that what I watched today happen to Ken Fisher was modern days lynching and accusing of treason very similar to Louis Riel era. Let’s not relive the past this way, let’s find the reasons that link us together, rather than tying a rope around each other’s necks.
Amongst all these losses perceived or real felt as a Métis woman today, I was given a gift.
I heard Ken Fisher’s voice loud and clear and it’s his words that I will rest my Métis Hope Upon……..“Regardless of this, I stand Métis Strong and Proud!
Thank you Ken Fisher for all you have done, for the service you have given and for the service you will continue to give with Métis Pride and Strength! I can hold my head with Métis Pride because of you today. From all of us Métis, I say Thank You Ken Fisher!
With Greatest Respect;
Jeanie Cardinal – Métis Citizen Proud and Strong!
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