Broadening the Frontlines of the Struggle for Métis National Governance



One of the most ironic tweets in Indigenous and Canadian history recently appeared on the Métis National Council’s Twitter page.

“The Métis National Council would like to inform all visitors to the offices located at 340 MacLaren Street in Ottawa that we are no longer available,” the May 12 statement read. “The Louis Riel Capital Corporation (our owners) demanded that we vacate our offices.”

Louis Riel chasing the Métis from their home. I can’t make this up.

This is another chapter in the two-decade war between the Manitoba Métis Federation and other Métis over the future of governance in Canada.

This is what history textbooks are written about, so buckle up.

In 2002 — after a long controversy over who had the authority to issue Métis citizenship — the provincial Métis authorities that make up the national council agreed to re-register members under a new national definition.

The fact that some groups claim to be Métis when they have little or no ties to the Métis nation born among the Red River communities was concerning.



Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand wrangled at the national council level over who could legitimately claim Metis citizenship. (Daniel Crump/Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Red River Métis, of course, are a recognizable, historical and legal entity that formed the basis of Manitoba’s first government. After the theft of their lands by Canada after Confederation, many of its inhabitants were dispersed to other colonies in the East and West.

At the same time, the term “métis” entered the Canadian lexicon (from the French “métissage” meaning “mixed blood”) to generally describe people who came from aboriginal and settler lineages and who were not eligible for Indian status under the Indian Act. .

Most Métis communities west of Manitoba can establish their ancestral ties to the Red River, but many eastern “Métis” cannot.

This led to disputes at the national council level, primarily between the MMF and the Métis Nation of Ontario, over who could legitimately claim Métis citizenship.

This extended into annual battles over funding, the development of the “official” Métis Nation map, and the MNO’s refusal to implement the council’s national definition of Métis citizenship.

As a result, the then chairman of the board, Clément Chartier, suspended the MNO, with the MMF supporting the decision. He also refused to hold meetings (or elections) with the Ontario group present.

In an effort to keep the peace, the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation of Alberta came to the aid of the MNO, sparking a legal battle over the leadership of the national council.

In 2019, Chartier stepped down, leaving MMF president David Chartrand to lead the board.


Former Métis National Council President Clément Chartier suspended the MNO, with the MMF supporting the decision.  (Mikaela MacKenzie/Winnipeg Free Press Files)

Former Métis National Council President Clément Chartier suspended the MNO, with the MMF supporting the decision. (Mikaela MacKenzie/Winnipeg Free Press Files)

Shortly after, a judge ordered the council to reinstate the MNO and hold an election, a decision which resulted in the removal of the MMF from the council.

In September 2021, Cassidy Caron of Métis Nation British Columbia was elected chair of the board.

Then things got nasty.

Four months later, Caron announced that an audit had revealed that Chartier, Chartrand and a number of other contractors and employees had perpetrated a “scorched earth policy plan” to bankrupt the national council.

He filed a $15 million lawsuit, primarily accusing Chartier and Chartrand of funneling money to MMF, including tying the organization to an expensive lease to house the National Council’s headquarters in a building managed by Louis Riel Capital Corp. development branch of the MMF).

Chartrand and the MMF called the lawsuit a “publicity stunt,” full of “scandalous, vexatious and baseless allegations.”

Hence the expulsion of the national council by the MMF on May 13.

This could simply be attributed to an internal political struggle among Métis if not for the fact that they drag the rest of us into their struggle.


Most Métis communities west of Manitoba can draw their ancestral ties to the Red River, but many "metis" east can not.  (Daniel Crump/Winnipeg Free Press files)

Most Métis communities west of Manitoba can establish their ancestral ties to the Red River, but many eastern “Métis” cannot. (Daniel Crump/Winnipeg Free Press files)

For a year, the MMF made billboards and sent letters to organizations across Manitoba demanding that territorial acknowledgments only use the words “Red River Metis Homeland” to recognize Metis people.

During the recent papal visit to Rome, the National Council and MMF traveled in separate delegations to receive an apology for the church’s role in the residential schools.

The MMF now advertises on its website that it is “the only officially recognized Métis government in Canada” – a position that views the national council as irrelevant and signals to the federal government that it is above any other Métis organization. .

A mixed-race dispute over who represents the mixed-race people has turned into a vicious, toxic and confusing court battle based on accusations of corruption and personal attacks.

Oh yes, non-Métis making the ultimate decision on what to do.

It’s a terrible, embarrassing and damaging look for everyone involved, especially for grassroots Metis.

Resentment drowns out good things.

In the past week, the pope announced he would visit parts of the Métis homeland in Alberta, while the MMF announced a $15 million plan to renovate 45 units for the dilapidated old tenement. from Roxy Lanes on the Henderson Highway in Winnipeg.

In a war, however, no one wins – especially those on the front lines.

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Niigaan Sinclair

Niigaan Sinclair
Journalist

Niigaan Sinclair is Anishinaabe and a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Christy J. Olson