By Sheri Narine, Windspeaker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
National Chief RoseAnne Archibald has received the support of chiefs-in-assembly and remains in her position as head of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
Chiefs spoke emphatically today, the first of the three-day AFN annual general assembly in Vancouver, admonishing the executive committee, which comprises the regional chiefs, for overstepping their boundaries and declaring Archibald’s suspension unilaterally June 17 for allegedly breaching confidentiality in respect to a workplace investigation against her.
Chiefs rejected emergency resolution #03 titled Special Business: Suspension of the National Chief, which was supported by the executive committee. It called for the national chief to be temporarily suspended with pay from her role and functions, and the suspension would continue until the outcome of a human resources investigation and upon receipt of the HR report, with a vote during a special assembly on the recommended decision of the executive.
When the result of the vote on the emergency resolution was announced, Archibald stood holding up her hands to the chiefs gathered in the hall who cheered at the outcome. The vote tally was not announced. For a resolution to pass, it must receive a 60 per cent favourable vote.
However, despite getting the support from the chiefs, Archibald was not spared a tongue-lashing that was also given to the regional chiefs for creating a “soap opera” of the AFN in public and with the media, as stated by Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis. He said it was “really embarrassing.”
Regional chiefs Joanne Bernard (New Brunswick) and Paul Prosper (Nova Scotia and Newfoundland), spokespersons for the executive committee, were also called out for presenting their case to the chiefs, prior to the vote, without enough information.
“Where’s the evidence?” asked Squamish elected chairperson Khelsilem.
Doreen Cardinal, proxy for Chapleau Cree First Nation, was one of many who said removing Archibald was the right of the chiefs-in-assembly and not the executive.
“We elected her and that should be respected,” said Cardinal, who spoke in opposition to the resolution.
The resolution, the only one of the three emergency resolutions on the agenda to be dealt with this afternoon, was put forward by Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and Chief Ira McArthur of Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation.
Casimer said it gave her “major, major heavy heart to even be moving this motion on so many different levels.”
Although she acknowledged Archibald’s support on Sept. 30, the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, when the national chief made the trip to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc in recognition of the 215 unmarked graves that had been uncovered the previous year, Casimer said she also felt that leaders had rules they needed to follow.
She also said AFN playing out its business in public was “embarrassing right across nationally.”
Archibald reiterated to chiefs prior to the vote that the executive council took action against her because “I told the truth of corruption at the AFN.” She also stressed that the executive did not have the power to suspend her.
Archibald continued to call for a forensic audit, which was supported by a number of chiefs.
However, a resolution for a forensic audit won’t hit the floor until tomorrow morning when chiefs will consider it as part of the two remaining emergency resolutions dealing with Archibald’s status.
The Investigation and Audit of the AFN’s Financial and Management Practises resolution, said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, set a “clear path” in how to move forward.
It calls for the two investigations to be overseen by a chiefs’ oversight panel, the members of which were to be chosen by the chiefs-in-assembly, and for their final report to be presented to the chiefs-in-assembly by the end of 2022.
The third emergency resolution is a non-confidence vote calling for “National Chief RoseAnne Archibald be immediately removed from office and that all pay and benefits be stopped effective immediately.”
Top photo credit: Chief RoseAnne Archibald (left) with Chief Willie Sellars of the Williams Lake First nation and Prime Minister Trudeau – Photo by Taylor Atkinson via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
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