The Assembly of First Nations has yet to address a Chiefs of Ontario resolution calling for an independent financial review at AFN, but the national chief says it’ll be on the agenda when executive level chiefs next meet.
They’re “two separate things,” Perry Bellegarde said Tuesday.
The outgoing national chief denies he’s using a harassment investigation against Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald to deflect from her accusations of unfairness, conflict of interest and financial misconduct.
“It was the Regional Chiefs from across Canada who voted unanimously to commence a full investigation, not me,” Bellegarde said in a statement.
“The AFN attempted to address the COO resolution at our last Executive Meeting, but through Regional Chief Archibald’s lawyer, she demanded that it not be on the agenda. The AFN is committed to ensuring that this will be addressed at our next AFN Executive meeting.”
But Archibald called these comments “misleading.”
In response, she quoted from Feb. 7 correspondence said to be from her counsel to the national chief.
The harassment investigation and the COO resolution “need to be addressed at separate meetings,” it said.
“Otherwise, it has the appearance that you are seeking to muzzle Regional Chief with counter complaints against her,” the email, attributed to unnamed counsel, continued.
“It is essential that in circumstances where very serious concerns have been raised by a board member as to financial improprieties, particularly conflicts of interest that involve the National Chief, that there be no appearance of deflection or reprisal against the originator of the allegations.”
Archibald said she had insisted, on behalf of the Ontario chiefs, that the resolution be addressed first.
Her statement then quoted from an email attributed to the national chief as response to her counsel.
“Regarding the timing of these meetings, you have asked that the other matters below, which deal with contracting issues, be addressed before harassment. That is in my view improper,” said the national chief, according to the release.
Bellegarde’s own statement emphasized bullying and harassment are very serious matters but didn’t address Archibald’s claims of “financial improprieties” at AFN.
“The AFN takes any claims of bullying and harassment seriously and we are committed to ensuring that everyone feels safe, welcomed, and valued,” he said.
“As Chair, I am obliged to bring forward facts to the full Executive Committee in any breach of the AFN’s Code of Conduct.”
When the executive chiefs do meet to discuss the resolution, Archibald won’t be there. She said Ontario will appoint a proxy.
“To date, the AFN has failed to respond to the Ontario Chief’s legitimate concerns about financial impropriety at the AFN. Instead, what has taken place is an effort to discredit, humiliate, shame, and dehumanize me,” said Archibald on Monday.
“I have decided that I will not participate in this attempt to sideline the concerns of the Ontario Chiefs. The concerns raised by COO around the financial irregularities at the AFN are serious and legitimate issues that ought to be addressed in an expeditious and transparent way.”
The current dispute between Archibald and Bellegarde is being played out through a series of statements and emails issued to the media.
APTN News has requested interviews with both on several occasions. Those requests have been denied.
APTN obtained a copy of the COO resolution, which was passed confidentially on Feb. 4. The document said the organization “has reason to believe” there have been code of conduct breaches at the AFN executive committee.
It cites concerns over conflicts of interest and asks an independent financial management expert to review policies and procedures for awarding contracts as well as severance packages for senior staff.
It calls for the expert to deliver a report and recommendations within three months.
The regional chief has said she welcomes the investigation into her conduct and is prepared to engage in a healing circle with any AFN staff.
Archibald first publicly called out the national chief in December.
She accused him of resisting an AFN resolution calling for an independent review into gender-based discrimination – an accusation he denied.