SPEAKING OUT: AMC grand chief’s accuser steps forward, calls for action

·4 min read

A woman who accused the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) of sexual assault, and filed a criminal complaint earlier this year has now publicly come forward, and she hopes that in doing so, she will convince AMC to change the way they are investigating her allegations.

“I was harassed, sexualized and assaulted by the Grand Chief Arlen Dumas,” 42-year-old AMC employee and Sagkeeng First Nation member Shauna Fontaine wrote in a lengthy June 8 Facebook post, in which she says she is the woman who accused AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of sexual assault back in March.

Fontaine declined an interview request with the Winnipeg Sun on Thursday, but did give permission to publish what she wrote in her post.

After a sexual assault allegation against Dumas, and news of a criminal complaint to Winnipeg Police (WPS) came to light back in March, AMC said that they would be investigating the complaint, and that Dumas would be suspended from his role while the investigation was being carried out. He remains suspended.

Fontaine chose not to publicly identify herself after the complaints were first made, because she said she originally feared what could happen to her if she did, and was even concerned she might lose her job.

“I filed my complaints, my truth, to my employer, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs following my report to the Sex Crimes Unit of Winnipeg Police Services in March 2022,” she wrote.

“I have lived in fear of punitive retribution; losing my employment and leadership positions I maintained. Should this happen now, it would be quite unfortunate as a single mother, matriarch and kookum, for speaking my truth.”

Fontaine is now on a temporary leave of absence from AMC while the investigation takes place, and says she wants to go public now, because she is not happy with the way that AMC has been handling the investigation.

“I learn what is happening via updates with the investigation just the same as the public does, via news releases, never receiving communications with me or my legal representation,” she wrote.

Fontaine has also added her signature to an open letter released this week that is now signed by hundreds of people, and is asking AMC to bring outside parties into their internal investigation, and to set up an “independent commission of inquiry.”

AMC has previously said in a media release they could not bring any outside parties into their investigation because they are “required to maintain the complainant’s confidentiality.”

“My name is now officially public, and I encourage AMC to accept the opportunity for support from a trauma-informed healing centred lens,” Fontaine wrote. “I added my name to the community-driven open letter asking for a trauma-informed process addressed to my employer, as currently I do not feel supported by the process undertaken.”

Fontaine said the decisions AMC now makes moving forward are vital if the organization wants to prove it takes allegations of assault and misconduct seriously.

“I was victimized by this man, a person in power, a protected man. In my heart, speaking out was and will always be the right thing to do. It takes courage, resilience and bravery to stand up against those who abuse their power,” she wrote.

“My children are watching. Your children are watching. The community is waiting.”

Dumas, who has held the role of Grand Chief of AMC since 2019, has now faced three allegations of misconduct since 2019, and two accusations of sexual assault in the last year.

Reports also surfaced on July 2 that there has been a third party complaint made to Winnipeg Police that accuses Dumas of sexual assault, stemming from an incident that allegedly happened in 2009. According to information found on the WPS website, third party reporting offers the option of reporting the details of a case anonymously to WPS through a third-party agency but “is not a substitute for providing a formal statement to the police.”

As well, back in 2019, Dumas took a temporary leave of absence from his role after being accused of sending unwanted text and social media messages to Bethany Maytwayashing, a woman who says she received numerous unwanted messages from Dumas, including one that asked if they could “meet up.”

Dumas has not been charged with any crimes, and no allegations have been tested in court.

The AMC didn't respond to the Winnipeg Sun’s requests for comment on Thursday. They have said in previous media releases they expect a final report from their investigation to be released by the end of this month, and that they plan to take actions based on the findings of that report.

Attempts to contact Dumas on Thursday were also unsuccessful.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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