Grand Chief hosting AFN election hit by lawsuit from former in-house lawyer

The organization and grand chief hosting the election for the next national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is facing a lawsuit from their former in-house lawyer.

 Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The organization and grand chief hosting the election for the next national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is facing a lawsuit from a former in-house lawyer.

Louis Harper, the former lawyer for the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), filed a statement of claim on Nov. 13 against the organization and Grand Chief David Harper. Louis Harper said in the statement of claim he was “constructively dismissed” from MKO “without just cause, without reasonable notice and without compensation in lieu of reasonable notice.”

The statement of claim alleges that Louis Harper faced a “hostile and embarrassing work environment” which forced him to take time off twice last year for health reasons.

“(Louis Harper) says that his constructive dismissal has been orchestrated by the defendants in a manner calculated to inflict mental anguish and distress on him and to cause him to lose standing and reputation in the community, and, in particular, with those First Nations with whom the plaintiff dealt in the course of his employment with MKO,” said the statement of claim.

APTN National News spoke with Grand Chief Harper about the lawsuit last week. The grand chief said he could not comment on the issue, because it was before the courts, beyond saying Louis Harper was not fired from MKO.

MKO is hosting the AFN election for national chief next week in Winnipeg.

MKO’s grand chief survived a confidence vote in September amid allegations from MKO-member chiefs that he was mismanaging the organization’s finances and using the money for personal reasons. Grand Chief Harper denied the allegations. The federal Aboriginal Affairs department tapped KPMG to probe MKO’s books as a result.

State of Claim

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The statement of claim alleges Grand Chief Harper repeatedly made “defamatory comments” about Louis Harper to the MKO’s chiefs and the organization’s executive council.

“At all material times, the defendant knew that its treatment of the plaintiff was causing deleterious effects to his health,” said the statement of claim.

The document also alleges that someone in MKO intercepted a letter from the Law Society of Manitoba address to Louis Harper. The letter was “then altered and circulated to various MKO chiefs under an anonymous cover letter that contained comments that were untrue, scandalous and defamatory of the plaintiff.”

The statement of claim said Louis Harper had no option but to leave his position at MKO on Sept. 26.

While the statement of claim does not include a dollar figure, it seeks damages for “intentional infliction of mental distress,” punitive damages and “general and special damages for constructive dismissal of the plaintiff from his employment.”

Louis harper was employed as general counsel for MKO from Aug. 3, 2005 to this past September.

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