Métis knowledge keeper Candace Lloyd ‘innocent of any wrongdoing of any kind’

Candace Lloyd. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

“You’re innocent of any wrongdoing of any kind.”

These words spoken by Justice Geoffrey Griffin to Candace Lloyd must be acknowledged in the media and in all aspects of her personal and professional life and those of her family.

Lloyd, along with her father, Robert Lloyd, and her brother, Scott Lloyd, all of whom had been members of the Highland Waters Métis Council in Northbrook, Ontario, had been charged in 2023 following an investigation by Lennox and Addington Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) into misuse of council funds. They were also stripped of any connection they still had with the Highland Waters Métis Council or the Metis Nation of Ontario.

In Napanee’s Ontario Court of Justice on Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2024, Justice Griffin officially withdrew the charges before a packed standing-room-only audience. He went a step further when he stated that all three were “innocent of wrongdoing of any kind.”

In a Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2023 press release, nearly a month after charges were laid against three individuals in May 2023, the OPP said, “The investigation by the L&A County Crime Unit revealed nearly $90,000 had been fraudulently used.” The timing of that press release was at the very least suspect, according to the Lloyds, who pointed out in court that it came on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

That same day, a release by Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) stated that the Secretary-Treasurer of the MNO, Jo Anne Young, had contacted the police. She is quoted in that release as saying, “As soon as we became aware of irregularities, we contacted the OPP.” The release also made the further insinuation that the Lloyds had stolen the money for themselves: “The limited resources and funds are meant to better the lives of Métis citizens and communities, they are not meant for personal gain.”

Because of these false accusations, the Lloyds were forced to fight the charges over the course of a year, sometimes to the detriment of their own health.

Justice Griffin acknowledged this, saying, “I’ve heard it from many sources” — repeating for emphasis — “many sources, that once charged, the weight can oftentimes be unbearable. People will plead guilty just to get out from under that weight even though they’re not guilty… Can you un-ring the bell once the bell has rung?” He said he hoped so.

Robert Lloyd and Candace Lloyd stand on the second-lowest step with Scott Lloyd just in front of them, surrounded by friends and family on the steps of the Napanee Courthouse on Dundas Street. They and several others had been in the room earlier as Justice Griffin formally withdrew the charges against them. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

“In criminal matters, the Crown bears the burden of proving the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, they could not do this,” said Dawn Quelch of Burford Law, legal counsel for Candace Lloyd. “Ms. Lloyd was placed in the untenable position of the OPP demanding she prove her innocence by providing documents that were entirely [already] in the possession of the provincial Métis Nation of Ontario.”

“Through diligent searches of old email accounts, journal books, etc., Ms. Lloyd was able to reconstruct the majority of the records that the MNO already had. But it took a year — a year of horrible suspicion, calling into question her Indigenous identity, her character, and her family legacy,” Quelch continued. “I’m glad it is over for her. I’m grateful to Judge Griffin and the Ontario Court of Justice for allowing Candace to speak of the impact on her, her family, and her community, in her own language.”

Before his comments, Griffin had allowed Candace Lloyd to take the stand. The strong little woman stood, face barely above the podium, eagle feathers in hand, to tell the court about the damage caused by the unfounded charges against her, her brother, and her father. 

Aanii Bohzoo, Dibaakonige Griffin. Tansi kic-kowick, Candace Lloyd dishinkashoon l’English, nishta Waabishge Gaagaagii Ikwe nindijinkaaz Anishinabemowin. Niipäpå Robert Lloyd dishinkashoon l’English, kishta A-bo-sahn Waawhaskishii nindijinkaaz Nahiyawakowin. Nisaamis Scott Lloyd dishinkashoon l’English, kishta Maskwa Nokaapawin Newayak nindijinkaaz Na-hi-ya-wakowin. Ki Na-hi-ya-wak-Michif inoodewiziwin Ile le lac Cross, Saskatchewan, et Anishinabec inoodewiziwin Rainy River, l’Ontario oshkiniya. Ki- ahkikiwpoo aandaan Li Land Between. Dans Northbrook et Napanee kiiwikinneekwa,” she began in the pidgin language of the Cree Michif — a combination of Cree, Algonquin, French, and English languages unique to the Michif communities.

“My introduction establishes my family ties, our teachings, lineage, and our connections to the land,” she explained before translating. “I stand and recognize Judge Griffin, counsel, and give greetings to everyone here today. My English name is Candace Lloyd; I am known as White Raven Woman in my Indigenous community. My father’s English name is Robert Lloyd; in Cree, he is called Deer Slayer. My brother’s English name is Scott Lloyd; in Cree, he is called Black Bear Stands in all Four Directions. Our Cree/Michif family is from Cross Lake Island, Saskatchewan, and the Ojibwe family is from the Rainy River district of Ontario. My family have lived most of our lives in the area known as the Land Between. We currently reside in the towns of Northbrook and Napanee. It is a privilege to know [that] the beautiful land that my family have spent our lives living and learning on are the shared ancestral territories of the Michi Saagiig, the unceded lands of the Omámíwinini nations.”

“Today,” she continued, “I speak with Courage from the place of Truth, guided by the Wisdom of strong Council and all my Relations. Nothing in our combined 100-plus years of life experience could have prepared us for the journey that I, my co-accused, and my family have experienced in the last year.”

Lloyd went on to detail how, in May 2023, charges of fraud and theft over $5,000 were brought against her, her father, and her brother by the OPP based on allegations from the leadership of the Metis Nation of Ontario, and how it was not until June 21, 2023, Indigenous Peoples Day, that releases from the OPP and Métis Nation Ontario alerted the media. News “outlets across Ontario covered these charges, accusing us of misappropriating Métis Nation of Ontario funds during our tenure as elected officials of the High Land Waters Métis Community Council, a chartered council of the MNO, where we volunteered for over 22 years.”

Lloyd stated that her father, Robert Lloyd, has suffered health setbacks due to the false allegations against him, which “have wielded a profound influence on all aspects of his life.”

Robert Lloyd, she said, “is a custodian of land-based knowledge, local history and our genealogy… The constant stress of worry and anxiety dims the once radiant light of his wisdom and teachings, limiting the knowledge he is able to share with others. These accusations strain the sacred bonds of familial connection and communal trust, leaving him angry and estranged from his heritage. The enduring scars of these baseless allegations persist as reminders of injustice, clouding the journey toward peace and redemption in his later years.”

She described her brother, Scott Lloyd, as “a knowledge holder, keeper of traditional stories and family history. These false allegations have erected insurmountable barriers, blocking his path to career advancement and opportunities for growth at his workplace… cast a dark cloud over his mental well-being, robbing him of the joy and tranquillity he once knew… leaving him feeling isolated and misunderstood.”

“As an Indigenous Medicine Woman, Knowledge Holder, a retired nurse and educator, my identity is rooted in integrity, honesty, my family, and the community I live in,” Lloyd went on, “but these accusations of fraud and theft have disintegrated that foundation, leaving me feeling adrift in a sea of uncertainty. These allegations feel like a betrayal of everything my ancestors stood for, tarnishing the legacy they entrusted to me to share teachings with generations going forward.”

Lloyd said she had been blacklisted by the local school boards where she worked and “where I was an Indigenous advisor on councils and taught students’ Indigenous ways of Knowing, Being and Doing.” She has also lost contracts “to bring Indigenous voices into western spaces through my entrepreneurship, Nookoom Learning.” Her employees, too, lost income due to the false allegations.

The anxiety of the weight of the false charges caused her to pause her master of education studies “because of my inability to focus on the task of completion.”

But the loss that stung Lloyd the most was of her reputation “and in the trust of relationships I worked tirelessly to establish for over 20 years within my Indigenous community. I pride myself on being a person that people could relate to, count on, share concerns that needed a voice, and hold those in positions of privilege and power accountable to the process of consultation and Indigenous representation.”

She also explained the impact of the allegations on her other family members, who have experienced “guilt by association,” causing them their own troubles.

“Perhaps most devastating of all is the impact on our Indigenous community. The accusations strike at the heart of our shared identity, threatening to erode the trust and respect that form the bedrock of our cultural heritage. As Indigenous Knowledge Holders, we are not merely individuals but an argosy of our ancestral wisdom, a bridge spanning generations of knowledge holders and learners. These accusations have disparaged the integrity of our communal legacy, challenging the very essence of our cultural continuity.”

Once outside the courtroom, the Lloyds and their supporters celebrated with jovial hugs and handshakes.

Lloyd said, “The hardest part of all of this — and my dad even mentioned this — is [getting] all the media that was okay with vilifying us, to redeem us. I don’t know how we would even go about it. We don’t know how to create a mass media release that says, ‘Hey, this is over, it’s done. And  we’re innocent.’ And it’s unfortunate that the Métis Nation couldn’t issue a statement that way, that says the [financial] documentation has always been there.”

Supporter Jennifer Kehoe pointed out, “The lawyer said that Candace provided all of the documentation that they had asked for and still [MNO] proceeded with weaponizing their misleading information… CTV News picked it up, and Global News, [and] they released it on Indigenous Peoples Day, despite the charges being officially laid in May. They held that information back until one of the most special days that we have honouring Indigenous people. I think that needs to be recognized and addressed…It’s just pure malice.”

The Lloyd family has some theories about what may have generated “malice” toward them from MNO, and Kingstonist will be looking into those in the coming days. 

Asked today for comment on the judge’s decision, a communications spokesperson for MNO responded, “The MNO does not have this information; has it been made available through the courts? Unfortunately, this limits our ability to respond to your request.” Pressed for further comment based on the fact that the matter was resolved in court this morning with much advance notice, the spokesperson replied, “On background, [our] understanding is there hasn’t been further information from the OPP. This was their investigation. We learned about this development from your email. The MNO has reached out to the investigator for more information.”

Candace Lloyd asked that Kingstonist share a “matriarchal power” photo to commemorate the moment and the support she had received from her indigenous sisters throughout the ordeal. That power was cemented by her actions, Justice Griffin said earlier when addressing Lloyd’s impact statement: “What you have said made a great deal of sense, and I thank you for those words…. You have always been enormously civil, polite, and helpful each time we [met in court] — the system you’ve now described as a form of  almost torture for you. I would have never known that by your demeanour and your calmness, and I thank you for that.”

“As far as this is concerned,” the judge concluded, “it’s withdrawn. I wish you, Robert, and Scott and everyone well. I hope with the passage of time this matter can work its way out in a manner that makes sense — and that sense is, you’re innocent of any wrongdoing of any kind, at any time.”

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