Edmonton-Griesbach NDP candidate, Blake Desjarlais has recently been called out about a conflict of interest with the Metis Settlement General Council (MSGC) and current political candidacy at the Federal NDP.
Blake Desjarlais of Fishing Lake Settlement has both personal and professional ties to MSGC and is a member from one of the eight Metis settlements represented. Desjarlais works as a lobbyist for the settlements through the MSGC, a position for which he receives a wage.
Blake’s official position is as Director of Public & National Affairs. Regarding the role’s focus, he has said, “The work I do as an employee ... is to identify some of the big challenges we have, and ways to move forward.” In addition to this role, Blake is running for federal office as an NDP MP in Edmonton-Griesbach.
The Fishing Lake Metis Settlement has taken it upon themselves to threaten legal action against members of the elected assembly following allegations of Desjarlais’ conflict of interest as Edmonton-Griesbach’s NDP candidate.
The letter from Fishing Lake Metis Settlement (FLMS) states they support their members to “explore their full potential”. Signed by FLMS Kristen Lindsay, the letter addresses people who have been “maliciously spreading inaccurate and unfounded information that is damaging to Blake’s personal and professional character.” The FLMS claims that Desjarlais is not in violation of any conflict of interest based on their personnel policies as no federal election has yet been called. The letter concluded by stating that if the parties do not cease related statements, a lawsuit will be commenced.
Defamatory statements listed by the FLMS's letter include:
Accusations of conflict of interest, by being an employee and seeking nomination for Federal NDP
Implying Blake’s questionable work ethics
That Blake is working unilaterally and not sharing any updates
Community members are not all in agreement with the letter’s aggressive approach to the situation. Lee Thom of Kikkino Metis Settlement (under MSGC) stated: “Individually, I have a problem with our organization approaching elected officials in the way that letter does. I don’t know if there’s grounds for any litigation. As elected officials, we have the right to question ethics and code of conduct of our employees. Currently, there’s no official policy for employees but they are in the works.”
Regarding the letter to the Assembly, Thom added, “To take that kind of stance against their own people is unethical on their part. It’s a light threat…. I think that for someone to put a cease and desist letter forward it should be from a person in a legal position.”
Stan Delorme, Chair of the Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement has said that these matters are creating a division between settlements - causing harm not only with the MSGC matters but in Provincial-Indigenous relations. “I think him to be in conflict of interest; he can’t be an employee if he’s seeking nomination for federal NDP.” - Delorme
If Blake Desjarlais is still on payroll as a director for the MSGC while running in the federal election, the division between communities, council members, and provincial relations will continue to increase.