AFN regional chiefs set to select an interim leader on Sunday

One of the 11 regional chiefs that make up the executive inside the Assembly of First Nations will become the interim leader of the national lobby group on Sunday APTN News has learned.

The move comes after some members of the executive led 163 chiefs to vote in favour of ousting the sitting national chief RoseAnne Archibald in a virtual meeting June 28. The AFN says it represents 634 nations across the country.

As per the June 28 resolution, the executive committee will select an interim national chief from amongst themselves.

Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod, who doesn’t sit on the executive, says there was a combination of things at play when he cast his vote to expel her as leader.

McLeod feels there has been a lot of chaos and internal arguing that has kept the AFN from addressing the issues affecting First Nations.

“We needed to change leadership and move on and find someone who could lead the organization in the right direction,” said McLeod in an interview with APTN News.

An interim national chief will be in place ahead of next week’s annual general assembly in Halifax.

Some say the future of the organization is in jeopardy, heading into next week.

Cara Currie Hall was the chief of staff for former national chief Matthew Coon Come.

“The entire validity of the organization is in question now by way of the actions of the regional chiefs,” Currie Hall tells APTN News. “Does it serve its purpose, what was it created to do? And the office of the national chief and the sanctity of the national chief is now in question, it’s been tarnished and diminished by regional chiefs and the political agenda.”

Thaioronióhte Dan David, an award-winning journalist and former news director at APTN says what’s happened to Archibald “is a coup.”

“There’s no question about that, they got rid of her because they didn’t want her there for some reason,” says David who also questions of the number of chiefs and proxies who took part in the June 28 meeting and why it happened just weeks ahead of the AGA.

McLeod says he’s hoping business will get done at the AGA instead of more of the infighting that has dominated the AFN’s meetings in recent years. But says he knows there is a chance that the meeting in Halifax will again be about Archibald.

“That goes to show a lack of leadership. To bog us down further and prolong this dysfunctional state that the AFN is in,” says McLeod.

According to McLeod, “Any good leader also knows when to step aside and I would hope she sees this is what the chiefs asked for.”

In an email to APTN, Kenneth Young, a former AFN regional chief for Manitoba who also acted as a proxy for Sagkeeng First Nations in the June vote, says Archibald was “removed with cause, proper notice and was allowed to speak, including a submission by her lawyer on her behalf.”

Young takes issue with Archibald’s comments in a video posted earlier in the week, saying the chief’s vote was “one of the most violent acts against an Indigenous, First Nations woman leader, ever.”

“Where is the violent removal she is imagining happened to her as a woman National Chief,” asks Young in the email. “She just happened to be a woman National Chief who was removed for cause,” writes Young who says “she still has not apologized or accepted any responsibility for her behaviour.”

In her social media video, Archibald called on her supporters, in particular women, to reach out to their chief and council and ask two things.

“One, that they reinstate me as national chief and two, that they make sure the forensic audit goes ahead. Now, I don’t want to be reinstated because of my ego, I want to be reinstated because I have a sacred responsibility that I have to fulfill,” says Archibald in the video.

It’s not clear whether Archibald has the support to pass a resolution reinstalling her as national chief.

AFN Regional Chief Paul Prosper told APTN that the executive hasn’t found the money to conduct the forensic audit that chiefs in assembly voted for in 2022.

McLeod says he doesn’t see how or why chiefs in assembly would reinstate Archibald, saying there were a lot of issues under her leadership, including serious HR issues with her staff.

According to long-time critic and former candidate for AFN national chief, Pam Palmater, if there was some workplace policy that was violated, that could have been dealt with through progressive discipline.

Palmater says the removal of Archibald is about something much deeper.

“To allow staff and the executive and some regional chiefs to use this as ‘ok this is going to be our strategy to get rid of this national chief,’ who is strong willed and assertive and wants to do things her way, based on what the chiefs told her to do, questioning everything, questioning the status quo, the old boys club, wanting an audit, wanting to know what past national chiefs were doing, she’s bringing forward all of the questions and concerns that we as grassroots people have been saying for decades,” says Palmater.

Palmater says she will be looking for chiefs to take their power back from the executive and regional chiefs in Halifax, otherwise, “this is the death knell where they don’t represent anyone, anymore and its really embarrassing.”

David says the AGA won’t matter to most First Nations people, who are more concerned about what’s happening near their homes and communities and not what will unfold in Halifax, next week.

“They just can’t be bothered with it and that speaks to the organization’s having lost touch with the people,” says David.

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