Assembly of First Nations meets as suspended chief fights over financial audit

VANCOUVER – The annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations is taking place this week in Vancouver under a cloud of criticism from its national chief, who has been suspended and denied entry to the meeting.

RoseAnne Archibald has said that her suspension is a violation of the assembly’s bylaws and that the regional chiefs do not have the power to suspend the national chief.

She says the suspension is a means of intimidating, punishing and silencing her for her claims of possible misuse of public funds by the assembly.

An Ontario court last week rejected an offer by Archibald to overturn his suspension, which was imposed on June 17 during an investigation of four complaints against him by his staff.

Archibald has alleged that she was targeted for trying to investigate corruption within the assembly and called for a forensic audit of the organization over the last eight years.

As of Monday, Archibald was still scheduled to speak at the meeting’s opening, but said in a tweet that she was “erased” from the agenda for her effort to hold the assembly accountable in a forensic audit.

“This is a meeting of heads in assembly, not an AFN (executive) meeting,” he said.

A draft resolution before the assembly calls for Archibald to be removed from office and new elections held because she did not receive the required 60 percent of the votes cast when she was elected last year.

Chief Wendy Jocko of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation says on social media that she will introduce an emergency resolution at the AFN meeting, calling for an immediate end to Archibald’s “unlawful and unfounded suspension.”

The theme of the assembly meeting is “walking the path of healing” and it begins the day after the AFN announced a $20 billion settlement to compensate First Nations children and their families for damage caused due to chronic underfunding for child welfare on reservations.

AFN regional chief Cindy Woodhouse, chief negotiator for the assembly’s child welfare deal, said the leadership issue is not affecting her work.

“First Nations go through turbulent times at times, but I know we’ve been through a lot historically and I think this work is so important that it will continue to move forward.”

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said many organizations experience such problems and this is an opportunity to determine the right approach to their governance.

“Of course, I think a strong AFN is a good thing for the country and for the many indigenous groups and communities it represents.”

He said the federal government’s job is not to determine how indigenous peoples should organize, but rather to work with those nations.

— With files from Sarah Ritchie.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 5, 2022.


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