A complaint about the Metis National Council and one of its provincial affiliates has been handed to the Federal Government. However Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office says his department has looked into the complaint and decided no further investigation is required. As reported in First Nations Drum this past July, an audit on the Metis National Council (MNC) and Metis Nation BC (MNBC) completed by Hallux Consulting on behalf of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in 2012 revealed financial mismanagement totalling almost $4 million. The revelations at the very least exposed the perpetrators as being completely negligent and incompetent, but also revealed criminality among the members of both boards. Both of the organizations purport to represent all Metis people in BC and across the country, which is not true.
On June 30th of this year, the BC Metis Federation, which represents almost half of the Metis citizens in BC, was provided information relating to the MNBC compliance audits that reviewed contracts administered by MNBC between 2008-2012. The compliance audit findings raised some serious questions about the MNBC’s potential fraud, ineligible payments to MNBC Senators and MNBC staff for advanced travel without any justification or payback, plus other serious allegations. The most significant was the MNBC board taking approximately $880,000 over the audited time period that was deemed ineligible.
The Hallux audit reviewed several of the financial program expenditures of MNBC, including Tripartite Self Government Negotiations, Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreement, Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training, and Adult Learning and Literacy. Monies that were supposed to fund these programs were misappropriated to ineligible payments to the several board members, senators, and staff. These programs are meant to assist Metis people in BC with personal and professional development to better their lives and their communities. MNBC also spent $130,000 to “aggressively” address legal avenues using government resources to file frivolous law suits against concerned members within their own Metis community. Unfortunately, what the audit clearly shows is that a large amount of the funds were used for personal gain by members of MNBC and to pay off debts previously incurred from other financial mismanagement.
Another audit by Hallux on MNC revealed very bad management practices and almost non-existent financial controls. MNC President Clement Chartier used AANDC monies to cover personal and professional expenses, including his legal professional fees. MNC Vice-President David Chartrand employed his wife on a loosely worded contract concluding that her job description was as a liaison between the President and Vice-President for $60,000. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on books published by board members. There was double-dipping of funds, board members were expensing auto fuel for long distance trips when in fact they flew, and many other instances like these. The auditor has publicly defended her work.
Keith Henry, President of the BC Metis Federation, personally sent the audit findings to the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) in July. It took the VPD some time during their investigation to determine if the matter fell under the jurisdiction of its financial crime unit or would be better dealt with by another agency, such as the RCMP or the Abbotsford Police Department, where one of the Metis organizations has its headquarters. The VPD ultimately decided to refer the matter back to AANDC.
Minister Bernard Valcourt and his ministry have decided not to investigate. Officials in the minister’s office have repeatedly said the matters raised in the audits have already been dealt with through the signing in April 2013 of a renewed Metis protocol and a new governance and financial accountability accord. Under the new accord, MNC agreed to post financial information on its website and develop and make public its strategic and annual operational plans. Aboriginal Affairs is supposed to post the MNC’s audited financial statements on its website. So far, neither MNC nor the AANDC have posted any of those documents online. This is the same AANDC that has gone to certain lengths by passing the First Nations Accountability Act, forcing First Nations and Aboriginal organizations to publicly post their financial records online. The controversial bill was passed without any consultations between the government and Aboriginal peoples. The Harper government’s Minister insists this type of accountability is necessary, yet also insists that no investigation is necessary while there are obvious possibilities of crimes committed.
First Nations Drum followed up with BC Metis Federation President Keith Henry. Clearly disappointed in the Federal Government’s inaction on the case, he said that he felt that AANDC had given him and his organization the “run-around,” but he hopes that this government will recognize his organization and the other Metis Federations across Canada as a credible alternative to MNC and its provincial affiliates. “What is clear is that accountability seems to be lost on our Metis people across this country. Governments stand by acting like victims when in fact these policies only support gross financial mismanagement, and it is our people lose out in the end,” said Henry.