OTTAWA — An internal fight over governance has spilled out into a full-page newspaper ad in which the B.C. branch of the Métis National Council takes aim at David Chartrand, head of the Manitoba Metis Federation.
The ad insinuates financial mismanagement, but Chartrand chalks it up to competing visions over who is Métis.
"With fear, sometimes people do stupid things," he said Friday.
Back in September, Chartrand had the Manitoba federation pull out of the national council, abandoning the other four provincial branches on the grounds they are letting in too many people with spurious claims to Métis ancestry.
The Ontario branch, in particular, has been offering Métis citizenship to people who claim some First Nations and European background, but lack proof of ties to the Red River Colony, situated around what became Winnipeg.
Chartrand says that perverts the process of people connecting with their ancestral roots, which many Métis families buried in order to avoid discrimination.
Some self-described Métis in central Ontario use dances, symbols and First Nations practices that Chartrand argues are totally alien to descendants of the colony, who were dispersed as Manitoba was settled, across the Prairies to B.C. and the Northwest Territories, and limited parts of the U.S. Midwest and northwest Ontario.
"They can call themselves governments all they want, but they’re membership clubs," Chartrand argued.
On Friday, Métis Nation British Columbia, which remains part of the national council, took out a full-page ad in the Winnipeg Free Press with the title "MMF exposed," accusing Chartrand of "paying his friends’ salaries in B.C." The ad mentions a $634,000 request from a rival upstart group in B.C.
The ad points to a website with a September proposal from the group, Red River Métis British Columbia, asking from funds from the Manitoba federation.
Chartrand said his federation received that proposal, but has no intention to fund it.
The rival group was started by Clara Morin Dal Col, who used to lead the B.C. federation but was deposed by its board after pushing the national council to suspend the Ontario federation over its membership criteria.
The Manitoba federation has also sent a cease-and-desist notice to Métis Nation British Columbia, over a video in which director Louis De Jaeger alleged Chartrand ran the national council "without any input from the other four" provincial branches, and "left behind an organizational and a financial mess."
In 2019, CBC News revealed the RCMP investigated the national council after Ottawa launched an audit into concerns about "departmental funding being used for ineligible expenditures" in how the MNC pays for professional services and reimburses expenses.
The federal government opted against filing a criminal complaint, which stopped the RCMP probe. Chartrand said the national council has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
"As long as I’ve been there, there’s nothing you can find that’s crooked," he said, challenging his adversaries to sue him.
"They’re talking smack about it, but our lawyers are waiting."
“They’re talking smack about it, but our lawyers are waiting.” – David Chartrand
The split in Métis governance has become a headache for Ottawa, with Liberal ministers saying they’re uncomfortable with the Crown being asked to decide who counts as Indigenous.
Both sides accuse the other of misinterpreting a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on how to determine who is Métis.
In July, Chartrand signed a self-governance agreement with Ottawa that asserts the Manitoba federation represents Métis "within what is now Manitoba as well as elsewhere inside and outside of Canada."
Since then, the Manitoba federation has started soliciting Métis who live outside of Manitoba, including 504 new MMF citizens who reside in B.C.
For Chartrand, the threat of losing members is what’s motivating the attack from other federations.
“For those who want to sell out, that’s their problem; they’ve got to answer to their own citizens.” – David Chartrand
"We will sign (agreements) with those who believe in the classical, historical definition of who we are," he said.
"For those who want to sell out, that’s their problem; they’ve got to answer to their own citizens."
The splintering comes under a Liberal government that has earmarked billions in an effort to bridge the socioeconomic gaps Indigenous peoples face.
Chartrand expects Ottawa to eventually revise its funding model, which currently allocates dollars to provincial federations that make up the national council, based on their size. He wants the Manitoba federation to start provide services to Métis in other provinces who are leaving the four other federations.
Parliamentary bureau chief
In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"