By: Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com
Assembly of First Nations chiefs could be voting for a new national chief in December, seven months earlier than scheduled.
On June 28, National Chief RoseAnne Archibald could be ousted from the organization she has led since July 2021. It’s supposed to be a three-year term. A special meeting has been called for that day for the very purpose of deciding her future with the organization.
This is the second time Archibald’s leadership has been formally questioned.
In June 2022, the regional chiefs on the AFN executive committee attempted to suspend her. At the July annual assembly meeting, chiefs in assembly reaffirmed her role as national chief.
This Wednesday’s Special Chiefs Assembly, which is not public, will see chiefs and proxies consider two resolutions.
According to the draft agenda posted on the AFN website, chiefs will vote first on a resolution based on the recommendation from the AFN executive committee to expel Archibald. A second resolution then would be considered to reaffirm her leadership.
Archibald will first address the chiefs, followed by the AFN executive committee. Voting will take place after.
The AFN charter sets a 60 per cent majority of voters as required to remove the national chief from office.
While the charter does not specifically state that Archibald is relieved immediately, the resolution directs that she be “immediately removed from office and that all pay and benefits be stopped effective immediately.”
The charter states that an interim national chief be selected from the executive committee. The resolution says an interim national chief is the first step and then an election will be held in December 2023 during the regularly scheduled special chiefs assembly.
A second resolution endorses Archibald in her role as the national chief and her continued leadership “so that she may finish her full term to July 2024.”
The resolutions will follow the update by an independent human rights investigator on Resolution 03/22, Investigation and Audit of AFN’s Financial and Management Policies.
The investigation resolution directed Archibald and the AFN executive committee to “actively cooperate” in five ongoing human resources investigations. All five investigations implicated Archibald.
The resolution to expel Archibald and the resolution to support Archibald present two very different accounts of the findings of that investigation.
According to information presented in the resolution to expel Archibald, the investigators found that Archibald harassed two complainants, contrary to the AFN’s Workplace Violence, Discrimination, and Harassment Policy. The resolution also states that Archibald was found to have breached the confidentiality requirements of the Harassment Policy, the AFN’s Whistleblower Policy, and Code of Conduct and Ethics for the AFN Executive Committee.
According to the resolution to affirm Archibald, 93 per cent of the original allegations, 28 in total, along with the whistleblower complaints were unsubstantiated.
“The AFN investigators erroneously concluded ‘retaliation’ in the remaining complaints, whereas the National Chief was fulfilling her Oath of Office to inform the Chiefs about suspected financial wrongdoing and organizational risks within the AFN Secretariat structure,” says the resolution supporting Archibald.
The resolution to expel Archibald, moved by Zhiibaahaasing First Nation Chief Irene Kells and seconded by Long Plains First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson, calls for supporting the stand of the executive committee.
The resolution in support of Archibald’s leadership, moved by Montreal Lake Cree Nation Chief Joyce MacLeod and Tŝilhqot’in Nation Chief Joe Alphonse, says that the “regional chiefs on the executive committee (need) to respect and uphold the authority of the First Nations-in-Assembly, and work towards peace, healing, and reconciliation within the AFN.”
Windspeaker.com reached out to AFN to find out why the resolution to expel Archibald was being dealt with first. As well, we wanted to know the implications if neither resolution met the 60 per cent threshold.
At deadline, Windspeaker.com had not heard back from the AFN.
Since Archibald took the helm of the AFN in 2021, there has been pushback to the structural changes she has pursued in order to address what she alleges as corruption in the system. A specially scheduled assembly was held this past April in order to deal with a backlog of resolutions held over while dealing with leadership issues.
Wednesday’s meeting comes about two weeks before the annual general assembly July 11 to July 13 in Halifax.