Former national chief RoseAnne Archibald’s political career with the Assembly of First Nations may be over, but the forensic audit of the organization’s finances she championed is very much alive.
“I think it’s important for organizations like the AFN, who have a fiduciary responsibility to First Nations leaders,” said Khelsilem, chairperson with the Squamish Nation Council in B.C.
“This is an organization that was created by and for First Nations leaders. It receives significant amounts of money from governments and charities to manage on behalf of First Nations, and I think it’s important for the organization to demonstrate a high level of trust.”
Khelsilem was speaking in Halifax on Day 2 of the AFN’s annual general assembly in Halifax. Delegates put forward an emergency resolution calling on the organization to set the scope, nature and financial cost of such an audit.
Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Quebec said he thinks a forensic audit is important, too, even if it takes time.
“You can’t get a forensic audit done in the span of a-year-and-a-half, two years,” he said. “It takes time.
“You’re looking at 10-plus years of audited statements and everything that has to be conducted.”
But Khelsilem, also chair of the AFN chiefs committee on charter renewal, said an audit shouldn’t take too much time. He said it is crucial to demonstrate to member chiefs that it is a priority.
“I think there’s a lot of fear because of innuendo around the potential costs of these types of investigations,” he said. “Often, large sums of money are thrown out as a sort of anecdotal evidence that this will be costly.
“As a leader who actioned a forensic audit in my First Nation at the request of my community when I first got elected, we did an audit over two years and were able to understand how to address the specific areas of concern.”
The AFN has a projected budget of just under $52 million this year.
At the same time, a group of women from Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation in Ontario say the AFN should be focusing more on grassroots issues such as youth suicide.
“We’ve had a cluster of deaths throughout the months and our community is crying for help,” said Clarissa Kelly.
Shyanne Woods agreed infighting at the organization must stop.
“Indigenous people are fighting amongst each other,” she said, “when to get to the root of these issues is to work together and bring us closer and discuss these issues and help each other.”
Archibald, who addressed the assembly virtually Tuesday before being ruled out of order by the co-chairs, was not present at the meeting in person or virtually on Wednesday.
She was removed as national chief last week by a special meeting of chiefs before she could finish her first term as the first woman to hold the top job.