The co-chair of the Assembly of First Nations Youth Council is applauding the action taken by the AFN executive by suspending Nova Scotia Regional Chief Morley Googoo for harassment.
“Especially when it comes to harassment you know, even on the terms of sexual harassment at that we do not tolerate anything like this at all and it’s something that even you know has been enforced just this past week,” said Rosalie LaBillois.
“I think it’s really empowering to see you know our leaders at this regional and executive level taking those stances.”
The AFN executive board is proposing a suspension for over harassment allegations levelled against him in a report written last year.
“It is the view of the AFN Executive Committee, acting in the capacity as the NIB (National Indian Brotherhood) board, that your alleged harassment and direct discrimination against women in your region is potentially detrimental to our organization,” said a letter from the AFN to Googoo dated Monday.
Googoo now has 20 days to respond.
In the report written in September 2018, Cheryl Maloney, former president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said she was harassed by Googoo.
The lawyer conducting the investigation said he reviewed emails, texts, conducted interviews, and reviewed social media posts and found that Googoo had acted aggressive towards some women and bullied others.
Googoo denied the reports findings and said the report was “not to true to me.”
At the AFN Annual General Assembly in Fredericton Tuesday Bellegarde told reporters the AFN “has a zero tolerance policy for any form of harassment, any kind of bullying, any kind of discrimination, so we take things very seriously. And as leaders we’re held to a higher standard.”
St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Allan Polchies, who is facing charges of assault and sexual assault, was scheduled to speak at the AFN event Tuesday morning, but Bellegarde said the AFN and Wolastoqey leadership reached an agreement that Polchies would not address the delegation from the stage, but instead from a microphone.
Polchies delivered his welcoming message to chiefs and delegates from the floor, but did not address the charges against him.
“An allegation has been made against me by a member of our community which I would normally take to court to prove my innocence due to my belief of the lack of evidence required to obtain a conviction,” Polchies said in a statement Monday.
But he said he has been offered and accepted a post charge diversion by the Crown prosecutor’s office, which could result in dropped charges if offenders undertake intervention efforts.
Bellegarde said the decisions taken on Googoo and Polchies were done with the intention of creating a “respectful, safe place” within the AFN.
Asked by APTN News what AFN is doing about the broader issue of First Nations male leadership abusing their positions of power and disrespecting women, Bellgarde said “it’s a very serious issue, no question.”
In recent weeks allegations of harassment have come to light against Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, Googoo, and most recently the assault charges against Polchies.
The national chief said the AFN “will not tolerate any bullying, we will not tolerate any harassment, we will not tolerate any discrimination.”
He said now that a decision in Googoo’s case has been made, “we’ve got to move forward — there’s a host of other issues we’ve got to focus on.”
Googoo is currently in Lima, Peru with students at a cultural exchange and did not respond to APTN’s request for comment.
With files from Justin Brake