The ousting of RoseAnne Archibald as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations sends the wrong message to nations across the country says Joe Alphonse, chief of Ti’etinqqx First Nation in British Columbia.
“What happened yesterday, to give your national chief a boot, you know that doesn’t send a very strong message,” Alphonse told APTN News. “It sends a message of a weak organization that any person or any person from here on out can be overturned.
“That’s a sad thing you know.”
On Wednesday, the AFN held an unprecedented online meeting to discuss the future of the national chief who was facing disciplinary issues inside the workplace.
After several rounds of speakers, including Archibald herself, 163 chiefs and proxies voted to oust the embattled leader. Sixty-two voted against her removal. There are roughly 634 First Nations in the AFN.
Niigaan Sinclair, a commentator on APTN News, said the number of leaders who voted to get rid of Archibald at the virtual meeting is hardly representative of the AFN as a whole.
“We’re talking bout only a third that participated in this special meeting and of that a fifth – 163 votes out of 640 that actually voted to remove her,” he said. “There is a very small constituency that participated in this.”
The AFN is a lobby group made up of a national chief, and 11 regional chiefs who comprise what is called the executive.
Paul Prosper, regional chief for Nova Scotia is a member of the executive who said Archibald had to go after a report talked about her treatment of staff.
“Harassment was found to exist and further to that there was breach of confidentiality and reprisal that is retaliation against all five complainants,” said Prosper. “So these are serious findings that required immediate action.”
Archibald is the first woman to be elected to the position of national chief. Since her election in 2021, she has been fighting for her job. In 2022, she survived a coup attempt when a majority of chiefs in assembly voted in favour of keeping her as the leader. They were also interested to learn the results of a forensic audit of the organization’s finances.
According to Prosper, the executive still hasn’t found the money to conduct the audit.
“They have been in the process of trying to secure the necessary funds to undertake that forensic audit and so those efforts will continue,” he said.
But harassment and confidentiality issues are human resource problems – not grounds for firing said Jeff Copenace, chief of Ojibway of Onigaming.
Copenace, who was an advisor to former national chief Shawn Atleo, said the attacks on Archibald are “all about gender” and that she’s being held to a higher standard than a male chief would be.
In the end, he said, there are more pressing problems the AFN needs to be dealing with.
“This is an embarrassment to the country,” he said during the online meeting. “Ojibways of Onigaming desperately need your help. We’re planning another funeral Monday and Tuesday and all of you are welcome to come and see what it’s really like in our community right now. This is embarrassing.”
First Nations-in-Assembly pass resolution to remove National Chief RoseAnne Archibald following investigation. Read the AFN statement: https://t.co/Vto5DntCRy.
— AFN (@AFN_Updates) June 29, 2023
APTN News commentator Kerry Benjoe agreed – there are more pressing problems the national lobby group needs to be focusing on.
“We just have to look at the statistics and numbers and we have so many issues that need to be addressed that aren’t being addressed,” she said. “The AFN was created to become a national voice, a united voice pushing forth the agenda that is of concern of all First Nations but really they are concerned just with what is happening in the office.”
On July 11, chiefs and proxies will meet in Halifax over three days for the summer get-together.
APTN reached out to Archibald for comment but did not hear back.