The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) and its president David Chartrand are denying the allegations made by the Métis National Council (MNC) in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that says the MMF caused the MNC serious financial harm.
The lawsuit filed on Jan. 27 in Ontario Superior Court, 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 cause financial harm to MNC, as the MNC and MMF would be competing to be the voice of the Métis Nation going forward.
The MMF and Chartrand, who was vice-president of the MNC until last fall, filed a statement of defence on Wednesday, in which they call the lawsuit the "latest salvo … in a broader political dispute over the representation of the Métis people."
The statement of defence accuses the MNC of having a political agenda "to secure power and influence amongst Métis people in Canada and to erode and ultimately usurp the MMF's position as the representative body of the Red River Métis."
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Among the allegations are that $9 million from the $30 million Métis Veterans Fund Contribution Agreement was transferred to the MMF, breaching MNC bylaws and that a seven-year lease was signed for an MNC office in Ottawa at a higher-than-market rent, being paid to a landlord whose shareholders are associated with the MMF.
The MNC is seeking $15 million in damages, and another $1 million in punitive damages, as well as other forms of restitution, according to its statement of claim.
Chartrand said all the allegations are an attempt to misguide and mislead the Métis Nation.
"When you look at their statement of claim against us, it's baseless," Chartrand said, adding there is no money missing.
He said the rent on the MNC office in Ottawa was "way under — it's within the fabric of what rent costs are."
"In fact, they get more space and parking," he said.
"The most embarrassing part … we've given them notice …. You don't want to pay me rent, then move out of here, go find a place that you think is better out there. So that's the position they're in now."
Chartrand said the MMF will have an office in Ottawa and potentially offices across the Prairies.
Veterans fund transfer in audit, says Chartrand
The Métis Veterans Fund Contribution Agreement from the federal government was the result of over 20 years of advocacy over the discriminatory treatment in how benefits were distributed to soldiers returning from the Second World War, advocacy led by Chartrand, according to the statement of defence.
The statement of defence says the MNC "did not have the capacity to administer and implement the Contribution Agreement" so the implementation was "outsourced" to MMF through a service delivery agreement.
Chartrand said the MNC knew about the $9 million from the veterans fund transferred to the MMF.
"When you look at the legacy fund, it was a promise I made and it was a request of our veterans," he said.
"[MNC] made a claim … that they had no knowledge of the investment, yet it's in their 2021 audit," he said.
In an emailed statement, the MNC said "President [Cassidy] Caron is pleased to have received the statement of defence so that the court process can proceed.
"We have every confidence in the judicial process and as this is a matter before the court, we will have no further comment at this time."