WINNIPEG — The Manitoba Métis Federation and its president are denying allegations of financial irregularities and questionable contracts made in a lawsuit filed by the Métis National Council.
The federation and president David Chartrand, former vice-president of the national council,say in a statement of defence that the claims are without merit and the lawsuit should be dismissed.
The council issued a full review of the organization following a 2021 election in which Cassidy Caron was elected as council president.
A statement of claim, filed in the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario in January, alleges the council's former leadership made deals to financially benefit themselves and others.
The council is seeking $15 million in damages.
The statement of defence says the lawsuit is an attempt to advance the political agenda of the council and its current leadership to secure power and influence among Métis in Canada.
"The MNC's scandalous, vexatious and baseless allegations are a transparent attempt by the MNC's newly elected administration to delegitimize and discredit the MMF and President David Chartrand in order to preserve and enhance their own standing and influence," says the statement filed in court Thursday.
"The MNC is misusing the overburdened civil justice system as a stage for political theatre. This action is an abuse of the court’s process that should not be permitted or condoned," it says.
The lawsuit also names Clément Chartier, who was president from 2003 until Caron's election last year. Chartrand served as vice-president under Chartier.
Caron has said that, after she was elected, she became aware of what she called a concerning lack of governance and financial practices and policies.
The council alleges former leaders adopted a "scorched earth policy" upon their departure with the goal of creating "severe financial and reputational damage" to the national council.
The Métis National Council includes provincial Métis organizations from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia. It was formed in 1983 to support recognition and promotion of Métis people as a distinct cultural group with their own governments and needs.
Presidents of the Métis organizations in Saskatchewan and Alberta, saying the lawsuit's allegations are distressing and transparency is needed, have come out in support of the council.
The Manitoba federation, citing concerns over who was being granted citizenship in Ontario, withdrew from the council last September.
Caron said in a statement that she is pleased the legal action can move forward. She did not comment further as the matter is before the courts.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press