By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A northern Metis local is asking the court to rule that the Metis Nation of Alberta (MNA) has been without a provincial council since September 2022 when a special meeting “unlawfully” extended the sitting provincial council’s mandate for a year.
Furthermore, the Mountain Metis Grande Cache local council (GCML)
#1994 wants such a ruling to include an order that the provincial council has had no authority to undertake any business since September 2022. Falling within that timeframe is the ratification vote for the Otipemisiwak Metis Government Constitution and its ongoing implementation.
Court documents were filed March 9 in the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta in Edmonton. They are a follow-up to a statement of claim that was filed Nov. 28, 2022.
The March 9 application is for summary judgment, which means a trial would not be required and “the issues can be determined based on affidavit evidence.”
Before the summary judgment is heard, says the MNA in a statement provided to Windspeaker.com, the MNA has brought a motion to strike the Nov. 28 application in its entirety “consistent with the MNA’s position that the claims of these individuals do not have merit.”
In the March 9 application, GCML says it wants a declaration that the provincial council, headed by president of 27 years Audrey Poitras, has “unlawfully overstayed and continue to overstay their term in office.”
According to MNA bylaws, elections for the provincial council are to occur every four years. The next election had been scheduled for mid-September 2022.
However, in a special meeting held in June 2022 in Grande Prairie, a special resolution was passed that extended the term of the present provincial council for one year. That extension was to coincide with the first election to be held under the MNA’s new constitution, which was ratified in November.
Affidavits have been submitted by Alvin Findlay, president of the GCML; Adam Browning, president of local #2003 (Lethbridge and area); and Bev New, former president of Region 5 (High Prairie-Slave Lake).
All three members of the MNA have actively opposed the actions of the provincial council since a motion was made by the provincial council in May 2022 to hold the special June 2022 meeting.
In Browning’s affidavit, he argued in a co-complaint sent to the Metis Judiciary Council that the timeframe for the calling of the special meeting was not supported by either Alberta’s Interpretation Act or Societies Act.
The MNA is incorporated as an association under the Alberta Societies Act.
However, the Judiciary Council sided with the provincial council that “provincial laws should have no role to play in interpreting MNA’s bylaws” and ruled that MNA bylaws upheld the timing of the special meeting and therefore the special resolution to extend the term of the provincial council by one year was also upheld.
The Metis Judiciary Council is tasked with giving an opinion or conducting an inquiry into whether a provincial council member has failed to comply with conflict of interest guidelines.
In New’s affidavit, she raised concerns about alleged irregularities at the June meeting, as well as being “shocked” by the number of votes held in order to pass the resolution.
The members also objected to holding a ratification vote in November for the Metis constitution. They didn’t believe that enough consultation had been carried out or that feedback was incorporated into the draft constitution.
“One of the reasons the Otipemisiwak Metis Government Constitution, as Metis law, was overwhelmingly ratified in November
2022 was to ensure that Alberta’s Societies Act could no longer be used to deny Metis rights and self-government,” said the MNA in its statement.
The affidavit package includes correspondence from the three members, individually or collectively, and often signed by other members who are not part of the provincial council.
In its statement to Windspeaker.com, the MNA said that “many of the claims made by these individuals are false and the MNA will vigorously defend against these unproven allegations?”
As for dissension among its members, the MNA statement goes on to say, “While all MNA citizens have the right to voice their opinions, collective decisions made through Metis self-government structures and institutions also need to be respected? The MNA is also optimistic that these issues will ultimately be resolved internally, consistent with the Metis right of self-government.”
In 2019, the MNA and Canada signed a Metis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement, which formally recognized that the MNA held the inherent right to self-government recognized by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The agreement set out a process for the recognition of an MNA Constitution_based on the Metis Nation’s inherent right to self-government_in federal legislation.
On Feb. 24, Canada and the MNA signed the Metis Nation within Alberta Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement which builds on the recognition and self-government agreement.
None of the allegations have been proven or tested in court.
Shari Narine is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with Windspeaker.com. The LJI program is federally funded.