As the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) prepares to vote on the future of its current president, a former executive is speaking out.
Allegations of a toxic workplace at the Ottawa office have reached the ears of former president Marilyn Buffalo in Edmonton.
“One question I have is, ‘Why did the executive let this go for so long?’” Buffalo asked in a telephone interview with APTN News.
“They have the ultimate authority to correct problems as they’re arising.”
APTN has learned a special meeting is scheduled Saturday in Ottawa to decide the fate of President Francyne Joe.
Joe, who was elected to a three-year term in 2017, is at the centre of what anonymous sources describe as a personality conflict with NWAC Chief Executive Officer Lynn Groulx.
Groulx confirmed the problem in a statement to APTN.
“While I cannot discuss the details, I can say there is tension in the relationship between Francyne Joe and myself,” she said.
Buffalo, who was president from 1997 to 2000, said a mediation process is needed to “work through the process.
“The situation unfolding is not something that happened overnight.”
However, unnamed employees say there is more.
They cite a toxic workplace inside the organization, which they blame on Groulx.
NWAC has about six members per province and territory.
It’s those members APTN has learned will vote at Saturday’s special meeting.
Groulx said problems between her and Joe remain “in spite of every effort” she has made to resolve them – including an intervention with Elders and a healing circle.
She said the board of directors continues to support her in running the organization.
(NWAC President Francyne Joe will have her fate decided at a board meeting Saturday in Ottawa.)
Joe is banned from the office and police were called when she showed up unannounced there last month.
“There needs to be a mediation process set up. Put the cards on the table of what the problems are and work through the process,” said Buffalo.
“It’s hard for the board to see what the issues are if you’re only hearing from one side, which is the CEO,” she added.
“By the time your staff has left and signed non-disclosures it’s hard for them to see what’s really going on.
Joe declined to comment when contacted by APTN.
She didn’t attend the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Monday in Gatineau, Que. Groulx went instead.
NWAC was formed “on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women, girls and gender-diverse people within First Nations, Métis and Inuit Canadian societies,” its website said.
NWAC’s report Sisters in Spirit is largely responsible for putting the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women on the national radar.
Michele Audette, one of the commissioners of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, is a former president of NWAC.