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Manitoba Métis Federation withdraws from national council amid growing identity spat

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation watches on as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau holds a rally in Winnipeg, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. On the eve of First Ministers' meetings with national Indigenous leaders, the vice-president of the Metis National Council is stepping up his rhetoric against three provincial Metis leaders, accusing them of striking a "backroom deal" that allows new members into the nation he believes are not Metis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Manitoba Métis Federation has withdrawn from the Métis National Council amid an ongoing rift over citizenship and identity that has been brewing for years.

In a letter sent Tuesday, MMF president David Chartrand informed MNC president Clément Chartier that the national council has “abandoned” the Manitoba leadership and “the true Métis nation” by allowing provincial Métis leaders to welcome members who Chartrand claims are not Métis.

“We at the MMF have long been the wall protecting our Nation from eastern invasion,” Chartrand writes, “and never expected to be attacked from the west — from those who one would expect better.”

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The move comes just one day before the national council is set to hold a special sitting of its general assembly — its first in nearly three years — and two days before the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day, a new federal holiday.

Chartrand has for years called on the national council to take action against the Métis Nation of Ontario for registering “thousands” of members who self-identify as Métis.

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Self-identification is one of the criteria for membership under the national council’s definition of Métis, which was adopted in 2002.

But Chartrand says members registered by the Ontario body are not fully Métis, with many of them belonging to other First Nations with eastern roots.

Métis are typically defined as originating from the Red River Valley in Manitoba and the surrounding Prairies. However, parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories are also home to Métis nations as defined by the national council.

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In his letter, Chartrand — who has also served as vice-president and occasional spokesperson for the national council — also took issue with the provincial Métis councils in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia that he says have allowed the registration of alleged non-Métis members in Ontario.

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“MNO’s action and the inaction of (other council leaders) undermines our citizenship, distorts our identity, and weakens our Nation,” he wrote.

The MNC has posted Chartrand’s letter on its website and social media, but has yet to comment on his claims or the withdrawal itself. A request for comment was not returned before publication.

In November 2018, Chartrand brought these concerns about Ontario’s membership registry to a general assembly and a resolution was passed, placing Ontario’s Metis group on probation and calling for an external committee to review its membership registry.

But the Ontario nation has refused to allow it, citing privacy concerns. Since then, the Metis National Council has issued proclamations saying Ontario has been suspended from the national body.

But the leaders of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan say this move was illegitimate, pointing to bylaws that say a member nation can only be suspended from the national council by vote of a general assembly.

Those three provincial leaders declared in January that the MNC “has become increasingly dysfunctional and unaccountable to its governing members and the Metis citizens.”

— with files from the Canadian Press

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