The Métis National Council (MNC) is alleging its previous administration had a scheme to financially harm the MNC to better position the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) to take its place on the national stage, according to court documents.
The MNC filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in an Ontario Superior Court on Thursday against former MNC president Clement Chartier, MMF president and former MNC vice-president and minister of finance David Chartrand, Wenda Waytteyne, former executive director of the MNC, the Manitoba Métis Federation, and a dozen other individuals and consultants.
The statement of claim says Chartier became a senior executive of MMF, its “ambassador for international and inter-nation relationships,” after leaving MNC.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The statement of claim alleges that in the lead-up to the MMF’s departure from the MNC just before the MNC election last fall, the defendants “embarked upon a scorched earth policy to intentionally cause financial harm and other injury to MNC, recognizing that MNC and MMF would now be competing to be the legitimate or recognized authority and voice of the Métis Nation going forward.”
MNC President Cassidy Caron said in a video statement online Thursday that after a review done by the MNC’s board of governors and herself, the audit was shared with their legal counsel, who filed the lawsuit on Thursday.
Caron said she was not prepared for the number of challenges she would face during her first 100 days in office.
“We need to understand what happened at the MNC prior to my election,” she said.
“We deserve truth, we deserve justice, and we deserve to put a period on the past and we deserve to finally move forward together.”
In the statement of claim, MNC alleges the defendants transferred $9 million from the MNC’s $30 million Métis Veterans Fund Contribution Agreement to the MMF, in breach of the MNC’s bylaws.
It says the defendants disbursed $1.5 million in wrongfully paid lump sum payments to various consulting firms, inappropriate amounts of severance payments totalling $800,000 to four members who left the MNC last year, and made “non-arm’s length payments” including gifts to colleagues, associates and spouses.
The statement of claim also alleges the defendants signed the MNC to a seven-year lease for an Ottawa office at a higher-than-market rent, being paid to a landlord whose shareholders are associated with the MMF.
The document also alleges the defendants transferred a “vital” database of archival and genealogical material belonging to MNC to the control of the MMF without the approval of board members.
The statement of claim says these actions were designed “to provide MMF with an unfair advantage in MMF’s ultimate desire and effort to be the sole national voice and representative of the Métis Nation.
“In so doing, these defendants not only created severe financial and reputational damage to MNC, they also designed and created additional obstacles intended to delay, hinder or prevent MNC from fulfilling its mandate.”
The MNC is asking for $15 million in damages, and another $1 million in punitive damages, as well as other forms of restitution, the statement of claim says.
CBC News reached out to former MNC president Chartier for comment and is waiting to hear back.
Chartrand said he finds it surprising and inaccurate that the MNC is accusing him of leaving it in a financial mess.
“When you look at it, clearly it’s a vindictive scheme to try to hurt my reputation, hurt the MMF,” he said.
Chartrand said all of the severance payment amounts were handled by professionals. He said he left the MNC in a surplus before he left the organization.