On July 25, 2019, APTN reporter Amber Bernard, appeared live on our newscast to report on the final day’s events of the Assembly of First Nations’ annual general assembly in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
In that report Amber told our audience about her attempt to put a question directly to AFN’s National Chief Perry Bellegarde about a matter she was reporting on. This was after earlier requests were denied.
For the better part of the day our APTN reporters had been trying to get an on camera interview with National Chief Perry Bellegarde regarding a briefing note APTN obtained indicating that Regional Chief Morley Googoo had asked chiefs in his region to push back against the AFN’s decision to suspend Googoo over alleged harassment.
AFN employees conveyed to our reporters that the National Chief would not do an on camera interview, nor would he provide comment on the matter.
In Amber’s report, we aired footage from earlier that day of Amber stepping in front of the National Chief’s entourage as he was leaving the assembly at the closing ceremony. The video shows Dakota Kochie leading the way for National Chief Bellegarde to exit the room. Mr. Kochie, political advisor to the National Chief, can be heard saying, “we’re not available, we got to get going” as they continued to walk forward.
Our reporter walked backwards and did not interfere with the group. Mr. Kochie who is to the right of the National Chief, steps in front of him. He crosses the National Chief’s path, to the National chief’s left toward Ms. Bernard. Kochie’s back blocks the view of the camera but Bernard can also be heard trying to ask her question, then can be heard saying, “please don’t touch me”, Kochie brushes past her, followed by the National Chief. The two men then walk out the door.
At the end of that video when Amber came back on camera to continue her live report she described how Mr. Kochie put his hand on her arm, motioning her to step aside as he and the National Chief continued to walk forward and out the door.
Amber also stated that this was not the first time this happened. She then said Mr. Kochie had grabbed her arm and mic and pushed it aside one year earlier at the election for National Chief in Vancouver, BC. Coincidentally, the date of the AFN election was also July 25th but in 2018. Amber was a summer intern with us at the time, fresh out of journalism school.
The incident occurred when she was attempting to get her microphone in close to get good audio just as Perry Bellegarde was announced the winner on the second ballot.
Because Mr. Kochie took issue with what Amber said about the incident in Vancouver we went back and found that raw footage.
Just as Perry Bellegarde is announced the winner at the second ballot, the footage shows Amber trying to get her microphone into the crowd of people where he is seated in the audience.
But the footage does not show Mr. Kochie making contact with Amber.
The footage shows it was in fact another AFN staff member, former press secretary Jamie Monastyrski, who pushes her mic and hand away with the outside of his forearm and says, “we’re not doing any microphones.”
Mr. Kochie, who is standing beside Mr. Monastyrski, can also be heard saying, “no mics.”
They then start telling people to “get back,” “we going up.”
But behind these two men, you can see from the angle of our second APTN camera, the newly re-elected National Chief Bellegarde is swarmed by his supporters, hugging him, shaking his hand and wishing him congratulations with several people all around him taking video and pictures with their cell phones.
Based on the review of the footage APTN apologizes to Mr. Kochie as he is not seen putting his hands on Amber in Vancouver in 2018.
Amber says that she was shocked with what occurred in Vancouver in 2018 and now acknowledges that she was mistaken as to who made contact with her on that occasion and therefore apologizes to Mr. Kochie as well.
It was actually another AFN staff member, former press secretary Jamie Monastyrski, who pushed her mic away in Vancouver.
Based on review of video footage Mr. Kochie is only shown to have made physical contact with our reporter once at the AFN annual assembly in Fredericton, New Brunswick on July 25, 2019.
Between July 25 and August 6, 2019, the APTN and some of its reporters made various statements directed at you in relation to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Annual General Assembly on July 25, 2019. These statements were intended to raise awareness about the importance of respectful interactions with members of the media. However, in the heat of the moment, some of our statements went further. In addition, we understand some of our statements were picked up and amplified by others on social media.
I would also like to apologize on behalf of the APTN and Amber Bernard for the broadcast of her assertion that you made physical contact with her at the July 25, 2018 AFN AGA. We aired an apology and correction on APTN’s National News program on October 11th.
Executive Director – News and Current Affairs