At a tumultuous meeting of the Assembly of First Nations July 5, RoseAnne Archibald was reinstated as National Chief after being suspended by the AFN executive committee June 17 over complaints of abusing staff.
The executive committee said Archibald was under investigation for accusing four individuals who had issued complaints against her of seeking over $1 million in payouts.
Archibald maintained that she was targeted for speaking out against the corruption in the organization. During the first session of the assembly, she accused the AFN secretariat and regional chiefs of being part of a colonial structure not grounded in Indigenous values, and hinted at legal threats, illegitimate bank transfers and other questionable conduct.
“An attack on me is an attack on you,” she told delegates. “Regional chiefs have usurped your authority. It’s your authority to determine what happens to me, not regional chiefs. It’s time for you chiefs to take the AFN back. Assert yourselves.”
She repeated a request for a forensic audit and outlined her vision of a new corporation based on Indigenous values.
The AFN executive committee had ordered Archibald to cease making statements that “amount to serious breaches of the confidentiality and privacy interests of AFN employees, service providers and others, including making broad allegations of misconduct.”
Neither the AFN nor Archibald responded to a request for comment.
Chief Wendy Jocko of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan said the regional chiefs were caught “in flagrante delicto” and were overstepping their authority.
“We strike down their unlawful decisions,” Jocko declared. “We must turn our attention to how to deal with the discreditable actions of the AFN secretariat and our respective regional chiefs. Someone must be held accountable for the treatment of our National Chief.”
The first woman to lead the AFN, Archibald has suggested that sexism played a role in her suspension. According to the Globe and Mail, however, Archibald also faced informal complaints of harassment and bullying during her term as Ontario Regional Chief.
The executive committee had banned her from attending the assembly but rescinded the order after legal threats. Delegates debated an emergency resolution July 5 that would have maintained the suspension until the outcome of a human resources investigation.
Chiefs largely spoke in opposition to the resolution, with many saying they felt there had been wrongdoing by both sides – the National Chief’s office and the wider secretariat. Chiefs made calls for reconciliation, unsure whose side to believe.
Others sounded frustrated that there was such a focus on this issue, particularly in the media, and urged the assembly to get back to more urgent affairs, like dealing with clean drinking water and rising suicide rates in communities. Some repeated the calls for a forensic audit, while one chief spoke out against it for its high cost.
Speaking after the vote, Archibald said she heard the message about reconciliation, but continued to urge chiefs to vote for a forensic audit. “The corruption needs to be exposed. Whatever you decide, I stand with you.”’
Benjamin Powless, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nation