Memo: Update on Lawsuit Against MNA

Posted on:

TO: MNA Citizens, Locals, Regions and Provincial Council
FROM: Audrey Poitras, MNA President
DATE: November 24, 2017
RE: Update on Lawsuit Against the MNA

As some of you may be aware, one MNA citizen started a lawsuit against the MNA in November 2016 with respect to two special resolutions duly passed by the 2016 MNA Annual Assembly. This same individual is also challenging the Kikino Métis Settlement’s decision to refuse him membership.
Up until now, I have not issued communications on this lawsuit because we wanted to respect the court process, and, quite frankly, I believe the lawsuit has no legal merit, but rather seeks to advance one individual’s political agenda. Drawing attention to him and his lawsuit is what he—and his lawyer—want. I have not wanted to give them the platform they seek.
With that said, many people have been asking about recent court decisions on this lawsuit that are in the MNA’s favour. In the spirit of transparency, I offer this update.

The Lawsuit Against the MNA
In November 2016, this individual started his lawsuit in his personal capacity (i.e., on behalf of himself and no one else). Since then, the MNA has been forced to incur significant costs to defend against what we believe to be a meritless lawsuit.
Specifically, this individual challenged the passage of the following two special resolutions at the 2016 Annual Assembly:

  • Special Resolution #1 clarified and added the goal of negotiating a modern-day treaty with the Crown to the MNA Bylaws.
  • Special Resolution #2 updated the MNA’s oath of membership to provide further clarity that the MNA—which includes its Regions and Locals—is duly authorized to advance the collectively-held rights and claims of its citizens.

These two special resolutions were passed with overwhelming support from those in attendance at the Annual Assembly. Following their passage, the MNA mailed out over 33,000 notices to all of our citizens making them aware of these developments. Since that time, not a single MNA citizen has withdrawn their citizenship. Nor has it reduced the number of Métis individuals applying to the MNA for citizenship every month.
On the contrary, over the last year, the MNA’s leadership has repeatedly heard from our citizens across the province that they are very excited to see the Métis Nation finally making renewed progress on Métis harvesting rights, a Métis consultation policy and our negotiations with Canada to implement a nation-to-nation relationship and the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Daniels v. Canada.
While the individual advancing this lawsuit may believe it is an effective political strategy to attempt to diminish the MNA in the courts and to work to undermine our negotiations with other governments, I do not believe that the vast majority of the MNA’s citizens agree.

Recent Court Decisions in Favour of the MNA
Over the last few months, the courts have also repeatedly sided with the MNA in relation to aspects of this lawsuit. These successes have included:

  • Both Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeal have rejected this individual’s attempt to obtain the personal genealogies of all of the MNA’s elected leadership and various MNA citizenship lists. The courts found that these demands were “egregious as being clearly irrelevant on its face” and “should never have been raised.” The court awarded the MNA over $16,000.00 in costs against this individual for his actions, which must be paid immediately or his lawsuit cannot proceed any further.
  • The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench rejected this individual’s attempt to amend his lawsuit—on the very day the case was to be heard—in order to significantly expand it with a view to getting access to all of the genealogies of the MNA’s 35,000+ citizens for his personal review. His request for these amendments were denied by the court. As a result of his actions, another $6,500.00 in costs was awarded against him, which must be paid immediately or his lawsuit cannot proceed any further. The following are just some of the conclusions and warnings the judge made:
    [38] I find that [this individual’s] eleventh-hour actions are the cause for the adjournment of the October Hearing, and the consequential waste of scarce judicial resources, time, and money. …
    [47] I reject [this individual’s] contention that the Court or the MNAA is responsible for his last-minute actions or the expectation that the October Hearing would not proceed as originally scheduled. Litigants, and particularly those represented by counsel, are expected to know that a motion filed and served moments before a hearing begins is very likely to result in an adjournment.
    [50] While I am satisfied that these series of events could well be construed as an example of “litigation by ambush”, I cannot conclusively say whether it results from design or misguidance. As such, I cannot find that the conduct is clearly egregious and therefore warranting solicitor-client costs. For the same reason, I do not think it appropriate to yet consider the indicia of litigation misconduct … (emphasis added)

As a part of this recent decision, the court has also now removed all of the previous restrictions agreed to by the MNA with respect to new citizens having to sign the MNA oath of citizenship. As such, all new applicants must now sign this oath in order to obtain citizenship within the MNA. As well, the MNA Registry will be ensuring all citizens who have received their citizenship since October 12, 2016 have a signed oath in their file. All other MNA citizens are deemed to have accepted the oath and do not need to sign the oath.

Simply put, Special Resolutions #1 and #2—as adopted by the 2016 Annual Assembly—are in full force and effect without qualification.
As a result of the actions of this individual and his lawyer, he must now pay over $22,000.00 in costs to the MNA and the Alberta Government before he can file any additional documents related to his lawsuit. At this time, no hearing is scheduled for this matter, and the court has indicated that it is unlikely that it could be heard before 2019. In the meantime, the MNA is fully able to act on the direction from its citizens with respect to the above-noted special resolutions.

I hope this update is informative and addresses the questions some MNA citizens have raised. For those who would like additional information, copies of the court’s decisions on these issues are available at the following website: https://www.justice.alberta.ca/programs_services/courts/Pages/decisions.aspx