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This article was published 28/12/2016 (1524 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Manitoba Métis Federation is taking the provincial government to court to reinstate an "unreasonable" cut to its health department.

In an application filed Dec. 22 in Court of Queen's Bench, the organization has applied for a judicial review of the province's decision to cut $650,000 in funding used to employ five health staff members.

"The decision is unreasonable and will have a negative effect on health care available to citizens of the Manitoba Métis community," states the application.

The federation argues the decision violates Métis constitutional rights and "breached the principles of procedural fairness."

The province's decision drew immediate condemnation from MMF president David Chartrand at a Nov. 29 meeting. He said he was blindsided when he learned core funding for the health and wellness department in 2016-17 had been cut.

An incensed Chartrand stormed out of the meeting and promptly began calling media to the inform them of the decision.

The MMF later purchased an ad in the Winnipeg Free Press denouncing the decision; it ran under the headline, "Métis Lives Matter."

The court application asks the court to reverse the decision and reinstate the purchase agreement between the province and MMF for 2016-17 year.

The MMF says the money paid the salaries of the five health workers, who were advised on how best to target services to Métis communities by Manitoba Health and regional health authorities. Chartrand said one staffer was employed on an initiative to end homelessness in Brandon.

The Tories argued in November the MMF-employed staff were providing education on the unique needs of the Métis population, not direct services to people.

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen disputed the notion the province had cut anything. He said the previous NDP government funded a pilot project that was extended for a couple of years. It ended March 31 and wasn't renewed by the NDP, he said.

"We did not cut the funding. It ended before we came into government," Goertzen told the Free Press in November.

Government officials said Wednesday they were unable to comment further on a matter that is before the courts.

The funding was approved year-over-year beginning in 2011. The purchase agreement technically expired in March of 2016, but the MMF continued to operate, provide services and incur expenses out of its own pocket on the expectation the funding would be renewed, the application says.

"There was always a significant time lag between the expiry of one funding agreement and the expiry of the next one," the application notes, pointing to the 2015-16 agreement, which wasn't officially approved until September 2015.

MMF asked to meet with former NDP health minister Sharon Blady prior to last April's election, and with Goertzen after the Tories' victory, but weren't granted a sit-down until Nov. 29, the application says.

At that meeting, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen informed Chartrand that the $650,000 funding, along with a $667,000 request to begin a three-year disease prevention program in 2016-17, would likely be denied following the results of a KPMG health-care review.

Goertzen offered no other details, other than to say the cut was made by the NDP.

The application states the delay in granting a formal meeting and the lack of advance notice meant the MMF operated on the "legitimate expectation" that funding would be approved for the year.

A judge will consider MMF's application at a hearing scheduled Jan. 12.

— With files from Larry Kusch

 

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @kristinannable