By Breanne Massey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A rift between the Métis Nation Council (MNC), the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) and the Métis Nation of B.C. (MNBC) has continued to deepen over many governance decision disagreements for at least four years.

On Jan. 18, the MNBC board of directors (formerly known as regional directors) voted to suspend Clara Morin Dal Cal of her duties as president.

Morin Dal Col was democratically elected in 2016, and citizens from the province re-elected her on Sept. 10, 2020. Morin Dal Col’s re-election at the nation occurred in parallel with incumbent vice-president Lissa Smith, who joined Team Minneault-Smith’s election slate over the summer to the campaign. All of the candidates, excluding the slate’s presidential competitor Walter Minneault, formerly the MNBC director of Region #7 for northeastern B.C., were successfully appointed in 2020 while contesting the 2016 representation.

Morin Dal Cal is well-known for supporting the decision of the MNC’s general assembly to remove Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) from the organization in an attempt to protect the identity of Métis citizens and to restrict non-Métis citizens from joining the MNO — a decision that some believe could jeopardize the rights of Métis citizens on a national level.

The MNC represents citizens from democratically provincial organizations, including the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, the Métis Nation of Alberta and the MNBC under the mandate of the Métis Nation General Assembly (MNGA) and holds collective rights nationally and internationally through a relationship with the Crown.

The Crown renewed the nation-to-nation governance agreement with Métis citizens when the Trudeau government came to power in 2015.

Previously, the MNO was represented at the MNC under the Canada-Métis Nation Accord of 2017. However, the MNC placed the MNO under a year-long suspension in 2018, which later resulted in an indefinite extension.

On Jan. 11, all card-holding members of the MNBC received an e-mail communication from Morin Dal Col, indicating that the board of directors had taken steps to remove her from the presidency with her statement available publicly on MNBC’s website. However, Morin Dal Col’s message was removed from MNBC’s website more than a week ago.

Up until Jan. 23, the MNBC board of directors had issued several press releases and statements about their decision to remove Morin Dal Cal from the presidency for her alleged failure to request and schedule a meeting with the MNC to hold an election in early-January for contested seats at the table.

In addition, the MNBC’s acting president Smith issued a press release stating Morin Dal Col had contravened the oath of office and allegedly breached confidentiality on Jan. 22.

Public reactions from the nation have varied on social media, with some taking sides and others expressing disbelief, concern, confusion, the desire for public consultation and others demanding a provincial vote.

David Chartrand, the MNC and MMF spokesperson, issued a news release denouncing MNBC’s board’s decision to suspend Morin Dal Col and publicly stated both organizations will not recognize Smith as acting president at MNBC due to a lack of process.

“This behaviour does not reflect our democratic traditions and values,” Chartrand said in a recent press release. “Since the early buffalo hunting expeditions, our Captains of the Hunt were elected. Our ancestors practiced democracy for nearly two centuries. Many sacrificed their lives to protect our families, our democracy and our way of life.”

In the same press release, MNC president Clément Chartier added, “Ms. Smith and her accomplices ambushed president Clara Morin Dal Col. This is a blackeye for democracy. As Métis citizens – as would any democratic people – we are disgusted by this under-handed attempt to eliminate a rightfully elected leader.”

MNBC’s Kootenay board member Debra Fisher explained the decision was difficult for the board, and the situation is continually evolving. “I stand by our board’s decision to suspend as per MNBC Media Release,” Fisher told the Pioneer by e-mail.

Morin Dal Col did not respond to the Pioneer’s request for the right to respond before this week’s edition went to press. As of Jan. 25, 2021, it’s unclear whether Morin Dal Col plans to appeal the suspension.