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.
The suspension of a democratically elected president seems to be a move to allow anyone to say they are Metis. Those who self-declare get the same rights and privileges as those who have gone to the heavy work of PROVING they are Metis. Is that not wrong? Many of those in the MNO are not Metis, like those in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. This very troubling move by the MNBC board will water down, poison and eventually render meaningless what it means to be Metis. Someone in New Brunswick or Ontario with an indigenous ancestor in the 1700s is NOT Metis.
So the board of directors are essentially saying the following to all members: You can vote on a president based on your collective and democratically evidential viewpoints but if that person does anything we dont like we have the right to completely overturn the groups opinion and will in order to appease our own personal and hand selected viewpoints. If you want to talk about muddying the waters and putting the Metis nation of Canada in a place of risk, one ought to look directly to the Board of Directors for this exact act, logically resulting in a zero sum game because regardless the outcome it provides a negative exposure to the group. Why does our vote not count? Who exactly put you in charge? I request that we hear from each board member directly on their decision and why they made it.
I respect that this may have been a move that was to simply prevent a bigger problem and there was a refusal for compromise but it seems like this is probably not the case.
It is quite clear that these people were forming a coup before they got elected or were acclaimed to their positions as regional directors. They were most likely looking for any reason to get President Morin Dal Col out of office. If Debra Fisher was elected for her views on transparency, she should practice what she preaches and use her influence to have everything that happened and that led up to the suspension of our president made public.
This suspension is ridiculous! President Morin Dal Col had already proven to the MNBC Citizenship that she knows how to lead, advocate and lobby for the Métis people of BC. That is the reason she was re-elected, she did her job well. But 4 months later….a board who was elected /acclaimed and still in training tells us they suspended her but they don`t tell us why.
I think we should disband the board and have another election. Maarsii