APTN National News
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde admits he is in a conflict of interest by employing his long-time partner as a senior adviser.
Bellegarde, however, says the national chief position gives him the authority to hire “a number of political staff to support my vision and mandate,” according to a letter obtained by APTN National News.
The arrangement is not sitting well with Six Nations Chief Ava Hill who wrote the national chief in March asking him to “rectify this conflict of interest situation.”
Hill said in an interview with APTN that Bellegarde’s decision to hire his “girlfriend” simply reinforces the perception the First Nations leadership is not accountable or transparent.
“I can’t hire my spouse. What would my community think of that? What if the prime minister hired his wife? It is a plain conflict of interest,” said Hill, whose Iroquois community sits south of Hamilton, Ont. “Chiefs are being criticized for this and that and the other thing and you have the national chief hiring his spouse.”
Six Nations has the largest population of any First Nation in the country.
Letter from Six Nations Chief Ava Hill
The AFN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the response letter to Hill, Bellegarde said he has tried to address the obvious conflict by having his partner Valerie Galley report to the AFN’s chief executive officer Peter Dinsdale.
“You rightly acknowledge that there is a conflict of interest as Ms. Galley is my partner,” said Bellegarde, in the March 23 letter. “To ensure that all administrative and human resources issues are addressed, I have directed that Ms. Galley report to the (CEO) who will be overseeing all supervisory responsibility.”
Dinsdale reports to Bellegarde and the AFN executive of chiefs.
Dinsdale told the Turtle Island News, the Six Nations newspaper which first reported on Hill’s concerns, that Galley was already Bellegarde’s adviser when he was Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians and AFN regional chief.
“So when he came into office here with his staff, his partner was on that staff,” said Dinsdale, according to the Turtle Island News.
Turtle Island News also reported Bellegarde isn’t the first national chief to hire a partner. Former national chief Phil Fontaine appointed lawyer Kathleen Mahoney as AFN negotiator and adviser during Indian residential school settlement talks while the two were sharing a home, the newspaper reported.
Letter from AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Hill said Bellegarde and Dinsdale have tried to “spin” her concerns as personal in nature because her daughter quit the AFN after Bellegarde transferred her to a new position.
Hill said Bellegarde made the argument to Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus and Dinsdale mentioned the same to Ontario AFN regional Chief Isadore Day.
Hill said her concerns have nothing to do with her daughter’s past employment with the AFN.
Day issued a statement through a spokesperson that he is aware of the issue, but would not be commenting on it publicly.
“There are other priorities,” said Day’s spokesperson.
Day later tweeted that he wanted to allow for due diligence.
“Affording respect and due diligence is prudent,” Day tweeted. “Seeking opportunities to address issues constructively is a responsibility.”
affording respect and due diligence is prudent. Seeking opportunities to address issues constructively, is a responsibility.
Eramsus did not immediately respond to requests for comment from APTN.