Suspended Métis Nation B.C. president seeks reversal of board decision

Elected president of the Métis Nation B.C. Clara Morin Dal Col says she’s seeking a reversal of the board’s move to suspend her earlier this month.

Clara Morin Dal Col calls suspension ‘unlawful, undemocratic and oppressive’

The board of the Métis Nation B.C. announced they voted to suspend elected president Clara Morin Dal Col on Jan. 18, 2021. (Métis Nation B.C.)

Elected president of the Métis Nation B.C. Clara Morin Dal Col says she's seeking a reversal of the board's move to suspend her earlier this month.

In a statement released Wednesday, Dal Col characterized her suspension as "unlawful, undemocratic and oppressive." 

Nine members of the board voted to suspend Dal Col on Jan. 18. 

Lissa Dawn Smith, former vice-president and now acting president, said she has full confidence in the board's actions to suspend Dal Col. 

"Our priority as a board and duty as elected officials is to protect the reputation of the Métis government and the Nation. We did not take this action lightly at all," she said on Wednesday. 

She said Dal Col was suspended because she allegedly "breached the confidentiality and brought the reputation of Métis Nation B.C. into disrepute."

Among the issues, she said, was Dal Col's decision to publish board documents that included motions and minutes that had not yet been approved by the board. The board also alleged Dal Col contravened her oath of office. 

Smith said Dal Col has the right to ask the Métis Nation B.C. senate to review her suspension.

Dal Col has not applied for a review. Instead, she said her lawyers have reached out to the board of directors demanding the motion to suspend her, and a previous motion to replace her at the Métis National Council table, be declared null and void. 

"The board had no legal authority to remove me as president," wrote Dal Col. 

She's asking the board to facilitate her return immediately. 

"If such measures are not taken by Feb. 1, 2021, I will be forced to take legal action against the board," Dal Col wrote.

National council stalemate

Dal Col was re-elected to a second term as Métis Nation B.C. president four months ago. She's among 11 elected board members who represent more than 21,000 Métis people in the province. 

One of the conflicts among leadership is connected to the Métis National Council and its suspension of the Métis Nation of Ontario over concerns about the way that organization defines people as Métis.

The mandate and direction of the national council flows from Métis governing bodies in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. There is ongoing disagreement around whether Ontario's suspension from the national council was legitimate. 

Ontario was placed on probation in 2018. When the suspension was announced in early 2020, a separate national coalition was emerging between Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan. This tri-council has been critical of the national council alleging "dysfunction" and a lack of transparency.

Disagreement among the governing bodies has created a stalemate with respect to who would come to the table for a national council meeting and under what conditions. Smith said the situation is concerning because much of the funding that flows to B.C. comes through the national council. 

In December, the B.C. board passed a motion calling for the national assembly to hold a board of governors meeting by mid-January 2021. Dal Col said she took issue with the motion because the board also voted to see Ontario's suspension reversed.

"Something this important has to go to the people. It's not for the board to make a decision on," she said. 

Smith said she and other board members voted to have Ontario's national council suspension reversed because it was "not suspended duly by the full board of governors."  

She said the board is committed to the national council's definition of Métis as agreed upon by the general assembly in 2002. 

"We want [Ontario] to have an opportunity, and still remain on probation, to present to a general assembly and then the full general assembly can make an informed decision on where to move forward."