Accusing Googoo: The chief, the charges, the next chapter

 Kathleen Martens and Angel Moore
It’s the world against Morley Googoo.

At least that’s how it feels to the former regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

“Now anybody else pushing a person would never make the news,” Googoo said.

“I made national news.”

He’s referring to the assault and causing a disturbance charges dropped in 2018 after he completed a restorative justice program. The former Mi’kmaw leader made headlines after an alleged fight at the Hampton Inn in Membertou, N.S.

Now, he’s national news again after the findings of two investigations into alleged abusive behavior against women were leaked to the media, and he was dumped as regional chief as a result.

That’s why he says he summoned APTN News for a lengthy interview at his condominium complex in Halifax.

“I don’t find I’m gender biased or bullying against women,” said the 51-year-old, who didn’t raise his voice or exhibit any of the angry outbursts he’s known for.

“I’ve said that from Day 1.”

Googoo has been a leader in the local Mi’kmaw community for 30 years. First, as head of his Waycobah First Nation in Cape Breton and then, for the past decade, representing regional chiefs at the AFN in Ottawa.

(Morley Googoo was chief of his First Nation for 19 years before becoming a regional chief. Angel Moore/APTN)

It was a natural career path for a guy with “a passionate personality” who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“You can ask me anything,” he offered with his trademark wide smile.

What sparked those two investigations – the first by the Tri-Partite Forum in 2018 and the second by AFN in 2019 – was allegations he bullied, harassed and intimidated some women in the Mi’kmaw community.

Once the damning contents became public, which APTN has not independently verified, Googoo’s 30-year ascent came to an end.

He arrived home last July from a “life-changing” youth trip to Peru to learn he had been suspended with pay and was barred from addressing the AFN assembly that week in Fredericton, N.B.

“All I’m doing is when I’m coming back is defending my name,” he recalled. “You know, the world crumbling apart.”

The East Coast regional chiefs took further action in October when they removed him as their representative after AFN probed “further allegations of misconduct.”

“I tried to be as strong as I could be during that time,” Googoo said of the sudden income loss that had him worrying he would be evicted from his home.

“It has been devastating.”

Suddenly, “the guy who helps everybody all the time with whatever they need” was in the vulnerable position of “needing to ask for $20.”

Had to act

Still, the chiefs had to act.

The global #MeToo movement and a powerful final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) called for increased scrutiny of political leaders.

The chiefs hired international law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP to investigate Googoo’s behavior, as first reported by CBC Indigenous. A copy of the confidential, redacted report has now been obtained by APTN.

Googoo told APTN he had not seen the report.

But this wasn’t the first time his behavior was catching up with him.

Court documents obtained by APTN show he’s had minor and major brushes with the law dealt with through alternative programs or dropped for various reasons.

“All I’ve done wrong in eight-and-a-half years as regional chief is push a guy,” Googoo said of the Membertou incident where he was accused of choking the night auditor.

“And I’ve owned it. And I was so apologetic for that…And I went to a (healing) circle for that.”

Fasken’s investigation was handled by a senior and junior lawyer, who were assisted by other lawyers in the firm as well as AFN’s internal counsel.

It makes some serious allegations about bullying, discrimination, harassment and “death threats” – none of which have been tested in court.

“Of note, we received disturbing allegations of gross sexual misconduct and violence,” the report said.

“During the course of one of our interviews, we obtained a detailed and graphic account of an allegation whereby a woman was administered a date rape drug and then repeatedly raped, while drugged.

“This woman has been traumatized by this event, fears for her life and does not wish to have her name or identity disclosed.”

(Morley Googoo followed in his father’s footsteps to lead his community. Kathleen Martens/APTN)

Googoo told APTN he was upset the report was leaked.

“That is the statements that I’m coming here to say, ‘Those are false,’” he added, shaking his head.

“So, if there’s allegations on drugging somebody and raping somebody? There is absolutely no way that we wouldn’t have heard about it before now.”

But now is when Jolene Googoo, a band member and distant cousin of Morley’s, wants to tell her story.

In an exclusive interview, the 34-year-old alleged she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Morley, her then-chief, in 2010.

She said she did not speak with Fasken’s investigators for their report.

Fishing permit

Jolene says it happened at Morley’s then-home in Halifax where she went to obtain a fishing permit to catch and sell tuna commercially.

“When I left, my friends, they all knew where I was going. I’m like ‘I’m going to go get the contract signed, guys. I’ll be back.’ I was in really good spirits,” she recalled.

The tuna license represented a fresh start for Jolene after years of dealing with the death of her mother and other loved ones.

“Everybody I love is gone, my favorite people in this world are all gone.”

Barbara Googoo died after falling down the stairs in 2002 (Jolene believes she was pushed by an attacker but police declared it an accident) and one of her daughters took her own life by suicide in 2009 while gripped by grief.

So Jolene said she was determined to get the fishing permit when she arrived at Morley’s home to find him waiting with Chinese food and the offer of an alcoholic beverage.

“I peeked in the kitchen and I seen paperwork. It looked like it was the contract,” she said, noting she repeatedly turned down a drink until finally agreeing to a quick swig.

“He’s like, ‘We’ll toast to signing the contract.’”

(Jolene Googoo is a band member and cousin of Morley Googoo’s. Kathleen Martens/APTN)

Morley, who was open to addressing her allegations, was unaware Jolene ever came to his house.

“I have absolutely never heard of that. Never been approached once by any(one),” he said. “This is the absolute first I ever hear of it.”

Jolene told Halifax Regional Police the same story in 2016 in a police report she shared with APTN.

She said she disclosed the alleged assault to numerous band officials over the years but didn’t go to hospital or even file a complaint with police until much later.

“I’m a smart person but what I’ll never, never understand is why it never crossed my mind to go to the hospital…I’m a person who wants justice – it’s something I do.”

By this time she said she had moved back to the reserve. “I just kind of zombied around. I was not myself at all.”

It took months to open up to a new boyfriend and tell him what allegedly happened but then, she says, her progress stopping in its tracks.

“Morley got up to regional chief and I’m like, ‘But how am I going to get up against you now? You just keep going up,’” Jolene said.

“I was scared.”

Shocked to hear

Morley was shocked to hear what Jolene accused him of.

“Unbelievable. That’s all I can say. She’s my cousin…I just can’t imagine that statement ever being made,” he said, noting police never talked to him.

“If there was an investigation ever done you would have to think that the RCMP would have asked me about it.”

As Morley explained the chief is the most popular person in a First Nation – without equal in a non-Indigenous community.

Under the Indian Act, they’re both politician and protector. It’s well known when a chief turns against an individual for whatever reason it can leave band members feeling isolated, alone and unsure where to go for help.

“When you’re a chief, there’s like hundreds of people that come to your house, ask you for $20 to a house to help. Everything. But, no, I would have remembered if any individual asked me especially for a big license like that. We only had one license at the time.”

In the police report Jolene shared with APTN it confirms the investigating officer did not interview Morley about her complaint.

“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” he added. “It’s absolutely false.”

“Whoever you talk to you really need to look at their credibility…because it just continues to tarnish any of the good work that I do, try to do and continue to do.”

Morley told APTN he wanted to “tell the truth of everything” and “didn’t have authority to offer anyone” a tuna license.

“You got to understand, as regional chief, too, we don’t give away houses, we don’t give away jobs or licenses or anything. I’ve been regional chief eight-and-half years. I’m a non-voting member of every board.”

What the media has said about the Fasken report suggests Morley threw a dark shadow over the area’s Indigenous communities. And used his influence to prevent people from speaking out against him or worse.

But Morley says this is another example of not being treated fairly by the media.

(Jolene Googoo has records of everyone she has spoken with over the years. Kathleen Martens/APTN)

“The difference is so important between what our Mi’kmaw community knows and what the rest of Canada knows…if you’re looking at my entire 30-year (political) life,” he said.

“So it’s important that everybody have proper facts.”

He said the Fasken report makes him sound more powerful than he was.

“I’m a regional chief. I’m literally a board member of a national advocacy group. Take the chief titles away. That’s all I am. I have absolutely no authority, jurisdiction or control, or ability to approve anything at the community levels.

“To use influence or death threats? That is absolutely all false,” he said, “and that’s what I’m here to say.

“Because I’m trying to move on from a very dark chapter.”

Jolene, too, is trying to move on, but with precautions.

“It is so scary to go up against somebody like that,” she said, adding she has prepared a living will and made custodial arrangements for her child.

“They’re high in power.”

Halifax police

Halifax police confirm Jolene’s case was closed in March 2019. But say it can be re-opened with new evidence.

Fasken said in the report it shared its findings with Morley in October and asked him to comment, but he declined. The report says without his information it was “unable to complete” parts of its investigation.

It further alleged Morley “took deliberate steps to interfere” with its investigation and “reached out to individuals…in an attempt to influence their decision.”

But Morley, who sat on 22 boards of community organizations, told APTN he doesn’t threaten or intimidate people as the report alleged.

He said he doesn’t target women or have a substance abuse problem. Instead, he says he suffers “from seizures” due to heart problems and other health issues following a serious car accident.

“Having these false statements continue to be made is very damaging and I need to be able to clarify that,” he said, offering to share his medical records with APTN.

“Certain individuals are politicians,” he added, noting he is likely the “victim of malice.”

Fasken said its investigators reviewed internal records of the AFN and partner organizations, including correspondence, emails, personal notes, financial records and others.

It also received copies of communication between Morley and women “having reported being the victims of harassment and intimidation, such as letters, emails, texts, voicemails, social media posts” and more.

Some voicemails, Fasken said, were verbally abusive. It said it obtained a recording of one of the messages:

“Hi, this is Morley Googoo. I just wanted to let you know…F— you. I’m going to f— you over. F— you in the a—–e.”

Media has reported that Fasken said Morley has a pattern of apologizing after “gross misconduct towards women” followed by “requests by him for an Indigenous Elder-led healing circle.”

APTN reviewed a 1996 court file where Morley was charged with two counts of administering a stupefying substance and one count of sexual assault.

A preliminary inquiry transcript shows a woman “was feeling really strange” a few minutes after accepting a drink from Morley.

“Then next thing I recall…Morley was on top of me…having sex. I remember feeling unable to concentrate still. I was weak, physically weak, and mentally I was really unfocused.”

A toxicologist was among the witnesses called at the hearing where  Morley was present but did not testify.

A judge concluded there was enough evidence to send two of three charges to trial, but the Crown dropped the charges in 1998 due “to evidentiary issues.”

The female complainant in that case refused to be interviewed by APTN for this story.

AFN intends to take the Fasken report to its membership along with a recommendation on what to do with Morley. It can lift or maintain his suspension with or without pay, or expel him from the AFN.

Fasken noted the AFN can be held liable for a large financial award if it “had knowledge of a history or pattern of misconduct and failed to take action.”

“Fishing expedition”

Morley called the whole thing a “fishing expedition,” the report said.

“I’m concerned with anything that’s false,” he said when APTN asked why people are afraid of him.

“I will own anything that’s true. I have all my life. And people think I get away with stuff. I don’t get away with stuff. I own it.”

There are now four related complaints before the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and the scandal has reached the desk of Nova Scotia’s premier as the province and Ottawa are part of the Tri-Partite Forum.

“I’ve lost my job, right?” he added. “Where does it end?”

“I don’t think people know I never broke any law. I never got charged for anything.”

He said he’s received an outpouring of support, and his email inbox is full of messages from people checking on him.

“It may not seem like I have it but I absolutely do,” he said.

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