AFN adopts code of conduct after series of complaints about chiefs

The code defines various policies, explains conflict of interest, and lists discipline procedures.

The Assembly of First Nations executive committee has adopted a code of conduct after complaints of bad behaviour by chiefs.

The code defines various policies, explains conflict of interest, and lists discipline procedures.

It runs seven pages long and was shared with APTN News just days after regional chief Morley Googoo was ordered to step down in the wake of harassment allegations.

In an emailed statement, the AFN said the code was approved by the executive committee on Sept. 25.

It said it plans for a formal signing at its upcoming special chief’s assembly in Ottawa in December.

The code includes an “Oath of Office” to be signed by National Chief Perry Bellegarde and 10 regional chiefs.

Further, it formalizes what Bellegarde told APTN in September, that AFN “has a zero tolerance policy for any form of harassment, any kind of bullying, any kind of discrimination, so we take things very seriously. And as leaders we’re held to a higher standard.”

Googoo had been suspended with pay while AFN investigated allegations he harassed Cheryl Maloney, former president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, and other women at the organization.

Googoo has denied the allegations.

Cheryl Maloney says she had to resign as president of the NSNWA because of gender-based bullying. (APTN file)

Maloney said she resigned from her role due to bullying by Googoo.

On Thursday, Maloney said she was wondering how AFN was conducting its investigation without guidelines.

“I’m still in the dark,” she said before APTN shared news of the code with her.

Maloney said she spent years trying to have her complaints about Googoo heard and addressed, while suffering loss of sleep and income.

“Apologies and (healing) circles are not enough for years of abuse and bullying,” she noted.

A workplace investigation confirmed Googoo engaged in “direct harassment” against Maloney and other Mi’kmaw women.

The independent report was commissioned by the Tripartite Forum, a federal, provincial and Mi’kmaw government organization.

A three-page summary, written by an employment lawyer hired by the forum and obtained by APTN, found a number of other women “felt harassed and bullied by (Googoo).”

Maloney has now filed human rights complaints against the forum’s executive committee and its partners represented by Bellegarde, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, and Carolyn Bennett, former minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

Maloney alleges they failed to respond to her concerns.

Meanwhile, APTN left messages seeking comment from Googoo.

Bob Joseph, president of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., said every organization needs rules – especially now in the #metoo era with allegations of sexual harassment shaking up the corporate world.

Bob Joseph says a code of conduct outlines the norms, rules and responsibilities for individuals in an organization. (Submitted photo)

“It sets the tone, obviously, to see the AFN taking a lead on the subject,” he said.

“I’d hope other Indigenous organizations would do the same.”

Joseph said guidelines help protect an organization and the people who work there.

They also show where the lines are that should not be crossed.

“It just helps the organization run more smoothly,” he added.

“They can spend the time doing the things they should be doing.”

But Maloney said more is needed to change what she sees as a culture of protecting perpetrators while punishing victims.

She said there was a lack of procedures and accountability when she first reported the harassment.

She believes that’s the next step for AFN and other Indigenous organizations, finding solutions and providing protection for women who come forward.

READ MORE: #Metoo: Indigenous Victims Speak Out



Online Journalist / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.