AFN chief under investigation for claims of bullying and harrassment

 Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald

By Lynda Powless
Editor
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief is facing calls for her to step aside while an internal investigation into her leadership, sparked by staff claims of bullying and harassment, is undertaken.
AFN chief RoseAnne Archibald went public with staff allegations Thursday (June 17) just after, sources told Turtle Island News, she sought the support of the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) at its annual meeting in Toronto.
During the closed meeting, with the COO, suddenly texts began appearing on cellphones and Chiefs inside the meeting told Turtle Island News they were already getting questions from media about the National Chief in a closed meeting.
The four complaints against the National Chief came from Archibald’s own staff who are currently on paid leave. The complaints include allegations of being yelled at by Archibald and reduced to tears when criticized about their work and said the it was toxic workplace.
According to CBC staff objected to Archibald’s alleged introduction of a Hawaiian cultural practice called ho’oponopono during weekly meetings that saw Archibald recited prayers for staff members’ healing or in response to their errors, and say that she asks them to share their childhood traumas. Multiple sources who spoke to CBC News said some staff members complained this practice served to re-traumatize them. The sources spoke on the condition they not be named out of fear of reprisals.
Archibald released a statement on social media saying she not only welcomes the investigation but is calling for it to be expanded to include a forensic audit and independent inquiry into the conduct of the AFN over the past eight years.”
The eight years would cover the term of former National Chief Perry Bellgarde.
Archibald’s statement said she has never faced these kinds of complaints in the past  “I have spent my 33 years in leadership cleaning up political messes. I stand for truth, transparency, and accountability. I campaigned to bring these values to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and that is why I was elected. “
However Archibald had also been the subject of a separate bullying and harassment investigation while she was the Ontario regional chief/ That investigation went nowhere.
She said she has been facing resistance to what she says is “corruption within the AFN.”
“For nearly a year now there has been extreme resistance to this positive change. In my efforts to clean up the corruption within the AFN, I’ve been undermined, discredited, and attacked. This is the second time that I’ve endured a smear campaign as a result of my relentless pursuit of the truth. Sadly, the AFN Secretariat, along with two Regional Chiefs, are choosing to focus on infighting rather than advocacy for the people that we serve,” she said.
She said the AFN cannot continue to conduct business as it has in the past saying it is not the “Healing Path Forward she envisioned for the “organization or our Peoples.”
She made accusations of “backroom deals” and “large payouts to staff.” She claimed there are documented incidents of corruption and collusion that she says has the AFN straying from its goals.
She accused the four staff that have launched complaints of trying “to secure over a million dollars in contract payouts.”
Sources told Turtle Island News the payouts would cover staff contracts that each extend over a four year (the term of the National Chief’s office) period and amount to about $400,000 each.
Archibald described the issue as “a desperate attempt to stop me from uncovering wrongdoing within the AFN.”
She said she wants the investigation expanded to include a forensic audit and an independent inquiry into the conduct of the AFN over the last eight years.
“I believe this investigation will help to identify the toxicity within our organization and bring about a healing and cultural shift that is critically needed,” she said.
She also said she is grateful to the COO for passing two resolutions, one validating her election as National Chief and the other confirming the need for an oversight body for the AFN Executive Committee.
She said this isn’t the end.
“In the coming days, more information will be revealed. What was done in darkness shall always find its way into the light.”
She denied the allegations filed against her calling it an example of  “the toxic pattern at the AFN.”
It isn’t the first time Archibald has been critical of the AFN. Prior to taking the leadership she accused the AFN of discrimination against women holding leadership positions and financial wrongdoing. During her election campaign for the leadership she said the AFN would be a more  transparent, welcoming institution and she said a whistleblower policy would be developed.
In a statement issued Thursday, the AFN confirmed it received a number of complaints last month against Archibald and determined the findings supported further inquiry by an external investigator.
The AFN released a statement Friday(June 16) saying the complaints have been sent to an external investigator.
“Following receipt of a number of complaints last month against National Chief RoseAnne
Archibald, per its internal human resources policy, Assembly of First Nations has looked into this matter, and determined that the findings support the pursuit of further investigation. As such, the complaints have been referred to an external investigator.
As this is an internal matter related to personnel/human resources issues, in the interests of protecting the privacy of those involved and the confidentiality of the process, AFN has no further comment at this time.”
The AFN did not release a copy of its “whistleblower” policy. The policy was developed last year.
.Archibald has hired Ontario lawyer Aaron Detlor.
Detlor told the CBC while he was unaware of any Hawaiian cultural practices used by Archibald or if she asked anyone to reveal childhood traumas, he is aware she “believes es strongly in Indigenous-based healing.”
Archibald has not taken a leave of absence but remains in her role as national chief.
At the same June 16th meeting with Ontario chiefs , the sources said, Archibald asked for support to dissolve the AFN secretariat — it is the administrative and operational arm of the AFN and which employs about 200 people.
Archibald is also facing a move to remove her from office charging she did not receive enough votes to take the office. .
B.C. McLeod Lake Indian Band Chief Harley Chingee, drafted the resolution he says he wants tabled at the July AFN general assembly that could force Archibald to step down. It was seconded by Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson. The resolution questions , whether the 2021 election victory was legitimate under the organization’s charter that says a national chief must be elected with 60 per cent of the vote. Archibald was elected on 205 ballots, or 50 per cent of votes cast. The last election was held virtually because of COVID-19 restrictions. Her opponent, Reginald Bellerose, dropped out after receiving 144 votes, or 35 per cent of the total.

 

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