OTTAWA — Manitoba Métis leader David Chartrand is being sued over allegations he helped divert federal funds to associates and had excessive sums paid from an Indigenous government to his wife.

OTTAWA — Manitoba Métis leader David Chartrand is being sued over allegations he helped divert federal funds to associates and had excessive sums paid from an Indigenous government to his wife.

Chartrand counters that those claims are a vindictive mischaracterization of normal financial practices.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

"It’s a scheme to try to make something out of nothing," Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, told the Free Press.

In a statement of claim filed Thursday with the Ontario Superior Court, the Métis National Council alleges its former leadership misused federal funds and were "calculated, malicious (and) demonstrated a callous disregard" for the organization’s bylaws.

<p>MMF president David Chartrand.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

MMF president David Chartrand.

The national group seeks $16 million in damages from 11 defendants, including Chartrand, former MNC president Clément Chartier, their associates and various consultants.

Chartier and Chartrand ran most of the national council’s operations in the three years leading up to last fall, as a rift grew within Métis governance.

In September 2021, 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.

“It’s a scheme to try to make something out of nothing.” — David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation

Chartrand says that perverts the process of people connecting with their ancestral roots, which many Métis families buried in order to avoid discrimination.

The Manitoba federation has since started a process to sign up members from other jurisdictions, arguing it will be a competing group that represents true Métis people.

Before pulling Manitoba out of the national council, Chartrand and Chartier ended numerous contracts with vendors, some of whom now provide services to the MMF.

David Chartrand and his wife, Glorian Chartrand.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

David Chartrand and his wife, Glorian Chartrand.

The national council argues these contracts should have either been maintained, or ended with reasonable payments back to the council. Instead, it alleges Chartrand’s peers paid these businesses unreasonably large sums and then encouraged them to stop any future work with the national council.

In filings, the council argues Chartrand and others "embarked upon a scorched earth policy to intentionally cause financial harm and other injury to MNC" in order to assert the Manitoba federation’s dominance.

The council alleges financial improprieties, such as a 15 per cent administration fee on programs such as providing grants to veterans out of a federal $30-million fund.

Chartrand said it’s long been the Manitoba federation’s structure to take that cut and use it for a mix of administrative costs and investments, with the resulting profits spent on various programming.

Chartrand was defensive of a claim his wife, Glorian Chartrand, had been paid "at least $13,500 per month" for an unspecified amount of time for various consultancy services. Chartrand said his spouse had worked largely as a volunteer over two decades but did some paid work on projects documenting Métis military veterans.

“Maybe they were expecting me to give them a bologna sandwich… after 30, 40 years of his life.” — David Chartrand

The claim notes Chartier received a parting gift of a gold watch valued around $4,000, in addition to his $244,710 severance — which Chartrand did not dispute.

"Maybe they were expecting me to give them a bologna sandwich… after 30, 40 years of his life," the MMF leader said.

He also took issue with allegations of an inappropriate funding relationship between the council’s Ottawa office being leased from an entity with ties to the Manitoba federation. He said that has been a long-standing policy that was well-known in the organization.

Chartrand said he’s confident the court will not find him in the wrong, arguing he was cleared of similar allegations in the past.

Download Untested statement of claim by Métis National Council

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 paid for professional services and reimburses expenses.

The Trudeau government opted against filing a criminal complaint, which stopped the RCMP probe. Chartrand has supported Liberal candidates in elections but insists Ottawa would have pursued a prosecution if it had grounds to do so.

"I’d do the same things I’ve done all over again, because I know I did right," said Chartrand, who has led the Manitoba federation since 1997.

Cassidy Caron took over the national council last fall, and argues she’s airing her organization’s dirty laundry and seeking compensation in order to have a fresh start, after "toxic" infighting that has left Métis people disillusioned.

"Nothing could have prepared me for the number of challenges I have encountered," Caron said in a video message Thursday. "The apparent actions of the past are impeding our ability to move forward."

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"