Actions of AFN executive an ‘embarrassment’ says former candidate for national chief

A former candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says the executive committee has overstepped its authority in pursuing the ousting of RoseAnne Archibald ahead of the planned meeting in Vancouver.

“This is a disgrace, it’s an embarrassment to all the First Nations in this country and it just shows how far gone the Assembly of First Nations has become,” says Pam Palmater, a professor and Mi’kmaq lawyer who ran against Shawn Atleo in 2012 and lost in her bid to claim the organization’s top job.

“What they chose to do instead of dealing with the HR issue, is they’ve now politicized it. They attempted at first to suspend her as national chief, which they have no authority to do, then they backtracked and said they were getting rid of her on the board but the political damage has already been done for a staffing issue.”

Less than a year ago, Archibald was elected as the AFN’s first female national chief on a platform of shaking up the organization and making it transparent.

A year later and Archibald seems to be on the outside looking in after being suspended by the AFN executive made up of mostly male chiefs over claims of harassment.

There are claims and counter-claims of harassment in the executive offices – ones that Archibald told APTN News in June were simply a smear campaign.

“This pattern that I’ve experienced at the AFN of launching HR investigations, I really hope people see it,” she said. “They see that there is a real toxic pattern in the organization and that’s really why I am asking for an independent investigation into the AFN to look at where these toxic patterns are sitting in the organization.

“How do we clean them out and how do we heal them.”

Many people are weighing in on the situation.

Winnipeg academic Niigaan Sinclair said he believes both sides bare some responsibility.

“And it’s really a colossal failure on both sides. Particularly by the national chief to not be able to bring people on to the side of her vision and then on the other side the regional chiefs also seem to not want change in any direction,” he said.

Archibald does have her supporters.

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) released a statement supporting the embattled chief.

“The UBCIC Executive stands with Chief RoseAnne Archibald in demanding a forensic audit of the AFN, including ensuring that direction confirmed by the Chiefs is followed.”

In a statement, the Tŝilhqot’in National Government said it “stands with Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Roseanne Archibald in her call for a forensic audit and fundamental reform at AFN.”

In the statement, Tribal Chair Joe Alphonse said “the actions of the AFN executive committee and board of directors are absolutely shameful. Chiefs across the country elected National Chief Archibald – let her do her job.”

Meeting to start on Tuesday

As the last slap to Archibald, a last-minute change to the agenda released Monday erased any mention of her speaking, or attending the event.

On Tuesday, the chiefs in assembly will deal with a resolution that calls for Archibald to be permanently removed from office.

APTN News will have full coverage of the opening ceremonies and speeches.

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