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Assembly of First Nations delegates reject resolution calling for chief’s suspension

Delegates to debate today a motion for independent third-party forensic financial audit of the AFN
Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald speaks during a news conference in Kamloops, B.C., Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. The annual gathering of the Assembly of First Nations is being held this week in Vancouver amid a cloud of criticism from its national chief who has been suspended and denied entry to the meeting.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An emergency resolution before the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting to reaffirm the suspension of National Chief RoseAnne Archibald has failed in Vancouver.

Archibald took the stage following Tuesday’s vote and expressed her gratitude for the decision to end what she called an unjust suspension.

“I am 100 per cent committed to meeting with the regional chiefs. I need my phone back. I need my emails back. I need to be reinstated fully,” she said.

The resolution said Archibald disclosed confidential information about the complaints against her by the organization’s staff, compromising the integrity of the assembly’s complaint process.

The vote needed the support of 60 per cent of eligible delegates for approval, but the resolution was defeated, with the tally to come later.

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir moved the motion saying there are rules for leaders and the situation has become a national embarrassment.

Thousands of delegates gathered for the annual Assembly of First Nations meeting in Vancouver to talk about the Pope’s visit, Indigenous rights, housing and other priorities, but those issues were upstaged by Archibald’s claims of corruption and infighting over her leadership.

Dressed in Indigenous regalia, Archibald strode in at the start of the gathering ahead of a group of chanting supporters.

Just the day before, Archibald said she had been “erased” from the agenda after her suspension by the executive committee June 17 while an investigation was underway into four complaints against her by her staff.

Instead, Archibald led opening ceremonies, welcomed attendees and spoke to delegates.

“I am your representative. I am your servant. I only exist because all of you put me in this position, so an attack on me is an attack on you,” she said before delegates voted. “It is your authority to determine what happens to the national chief. You elected me, not the regional chiefs. You determine what discipline I face.”

Archibald alleges she was suspended for trying to investigate corruption within the assembly and called for a forensic audit of the organization for the last eight years.

She said it comes after “decades” of calls for reform within the organization.

“When you support me, you will be fighting against corruption,” Archibald said.

The Assembly of First Nations executive released a statement Tuesday urging delegates not to allow the human resource complaints involving Archibald to “overshadow the real and ongoing work that is required on behalf of the First Nations people.”

“The committee further calls on the national chief to immediately cease any actions and 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,” the statement said.

The executive believes the actions are damaging, unlawful and inappropriate, the statement said.

Archibald has said her suspension was a violation of the assembly’s charter and a means to intimidate, punish and silence her over her claims of the possible misuse of public funds by the assembly.

“Obviously, I’m calling on our friends for an audit and an independent investigation into the AFN and I’m asking chiefs and grassroots people to talk to their chiefs to ensure that a forensic audit happens as well as an independent investigation into the corruption and toxicity at AFN,” she said before she entered the assembly Tuesday.

Prior to the vote, Paul Prosper, the AFN regional chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, asked chiefs and their proxies in attendance to validate the executive’s decision to allow for Archibald’s temporary suspension to continue until the investigation concludes.

“There have been calls for a forensic audit and my colleagues are not opposed to a forensic audit. We welcome it if you welcome it,” he said. “No organization is perfect. We all face our own unique challenges and yes, as an organization we can improve that we must improve.”

Archibald said in her address that she wants audits in two areas: staff payouts and contracts.

“Millions of dollars have been paid in staff payouts,” she said. “That’s what the forensic audit will show you. You will see how money that is meant for you and your communities has been going into somebody else’s pocket.”

Two other emergency resolutions will be brought to the assembly floor for vote on Wednesday.

The first, brought by Chief Wendy Jocko of Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, is calling for the independent third-party forensic financial audit of the AFN.

The other resolution, brought by Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation Chief Rod Travers, calls for Archibald to be removed from office, claiming she breached confidentiality by speaking with media, prompting delegates to lose confidence in her leadership.

It calls for the executive committee to appoint an interim leader, with an election for a new national chief to be called within six months.

A draft resolution before the assembly asking that Archibald be removed from the office and a new election be held because she didn’t receive the required 60 per cent of votes cast when she was elected last year was removed from the list of resolutions.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: Court rejects bid by AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald to overturn suspension