A NORTHWEST Metis leader has resigned after the official provincial Metis organization signed up for benefits from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project without first asking its members.
Alan Sauve said he left his position as president of the Terrace-based chapter of the Metis Nation of BC (MNBC) after being told its executive had accepted a pipeline ownership, employment benefits and revenue sharing package.
He said the announcement was made at a meeting he thought was being held to discuss holding a vote among Metis as to whether they should sign on with Enbridge or not.
“It was a dog and pony show,” said Sauve of the meeting. “I had to resign.”
Three senior Metis Nation of BC officials also resigned after the meeting.
The organization had previously cancelled two planned votes among its members regarding the Enbridge package.
Word of a deal struck with Enbridge surfaced through a May 26 letter from MNBC president Bruce Dumont, sent to Metis chapters after the meeting in Vancouver attended by Sauve.
“I am pleased to advise that the board of directors of the Metis Provincial Council of British Columbia has agreed … to take advantage of an equity ownership interest in (a) Northern Gateway Project limited partnership,” read the letter by Dumont.
“Being on the inside working with the company on all aspects of the project, including ensuring adequate safeguards are in place for the environment and generating economic opportunities for our people is much preferred over being simply another critic on the outside and gaining absolutely nothing for Metis citizens.
“The leadership shown by the MPCBC board in making this challenging decision represents a valuable step towards providing for the current and future needs to the MNBC and Metis citizens of British Columbia and continued strength of the Metis Nation.”
The Metis Nation of British Columbia has been trying to get out from under a $2 million plus debt load sparked by the purchase of a school building years ago, leaving Sauve to wonder if the organization will receive some debt relief from Enbridge.
He’s also asking why two votes were cancelled if the provincial association says the Enbridge deal was made in the interests of Metis people.
A vote was first scheduled for February, but was cancelled so people could find out more information about the project and a new vote was planned for March 23 until it, too, was cancelled.
“It’s an oligarchy, not a democracy,” said Sauve of the events that led to his letter of resignation.
“The position the MNBC Board of Govenance with regards to the issue of the Enbridge Northern (Gateway) Pipeline seems to be set upon a path that is contrary to the concerns of the First Nations communities to whom I render my services,” wrote Sauve in his resignation letter, adding that he works with local First Nations in many roles and refuses to stand against them.
“I must remain true to my convictions in support of my community in opposition to (the pipeline).”
Also resigning due to MNBC’s Enbridge alliance was MNBC vice president Dave Hodgson, women’s representative Susie Hooper and Katherine Wolfden, the northwest’s regional youth representative.
News of the circumstances behind the Metis sign surfaced as Enbridge released a statement June 5 indicating it had reached economic deals with the majority of First Nations and Metis people.
“Almost 60 per cent of eligible Aboriginal communities along the proposed right of way, representing 60 per cent of the First Nations’ population (and 80 per cent of the combined First Nations’ and Metis’ population) have agreed to be part owners of the proposed Northern Gateway pipelines,” the company said.
And a rival Metis organization, the BC Metis Federation, says the Metis Nation of BC executive was wrong in deciding to sign on with Enbridge without first holding a vote.
“MNBCs actions are quite frankly illegal within their governance process,” said Keith Henry, founder of the Metis Federation of BC and former MNBC CEO. “There’s a lot of people that are just shocked.”
Henry believes the Metis Nation of BC never intended on holding a vote in the first place.
“I just think we’ve been saying that this organization was going to do this from the beginning,” he said. “They went right to the joint review panel and made public statements that there’d be a vote.”
MNBC did not return phone calls from The Terrace Standard.