While I don’t speak for all Indigenous peoples in Canada, the Assembly of First Nations has long been their most important public voice. This week, a long period of upheaval culminated on Wednesday with a vote to remove RoseAnne Archibald as national leader.
AFN is not the only national organization that has recently experienced leadership turmoil. For example, being the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada hasn’t been a job with an extended tenure in recent years. But the events leading up to the removal of Ms Archibald, who became the first woman to be elected national leader just under two years ago, have been uncharacteristically fractious and indicative of wider problems at the group.
And the situation is filled with counterclaims and denials.
The motion that finally ousted Mrs. Archibald, in a virtual meeting open only to the CBC, she was prompted by an independent human resources review which concluded that she had harassed two employees. The report also said that five employees suffered reprisals from Ms Archibald and that she violated their privacy. Four of the five people are women.
The report, prepared by a law firm last year, said the working environment at the AFN was “highly politicised, divided and even fractured”.
Ms Archibald was suspended for a period after the complaints were lodged. An attempt to remove her as national chief last July was postponed until a final version of the investigation was released.
Throughout, Ms Archibald described the investigation as a “smear campaign” conducted in response to her requests for an examination of the finances of the assemblywhich she says were run through a “rogue scheme” that siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars into personal bank accounts.
“What’s happening is wrong, but it’s not about me,” he wrote on Twitter last year after his suspension. “It’s a fabricated distraction from my repeated calls to investigate the past eight years of wrongdoing within the AFN” (Earlier this week, Ms. Archibald closed her social media accounts and did not speak about the removal her.)
Ultimately, the special meeting voted 71% in favor of Ms Archibald’s removal, 163 of the 231 votes cast. An interim national chief will be appointed to serve out the remainder of Ms Archibald’s term, which expires in July 2024.
Niigaan Sinclair, a professor of indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba, told me the uproar was a result of the assembly “not being a government; It’s really important to identify that AFN is simply just a lobbying group for bosses.
He said that until 1969, the National Indian Brotherhood, as it was then known, was a political body pushing for indigenous sovereignty. But the government at the time, led by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, father of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reached an agreement whereby AFN began receiving large sums of federal money to provide various programs and services.
“It was a nice way to take over an organization vested with sovereignty and autonomy for First Nations and basically turn it into a federal government program delivery service,” Professor Sinclair told me. “And the AFN never recovered.”
While Professor Sinclair said Ms Archibald “certainly deserved some discipline” on personnel matters, she had nonetheless raised legitimate and important questions about how the assembly worked and where the government’s money ultimately went. they merged.
“None of the answers to these questions will be delivered now,” he said.
Professor Sinclair questioned why the vote was not held later this month, during the annual national gathering of chiefs, and noted that the 231 chiefs who attended were only around a third of those who they were eligible.
“Are we really satisfied with 200 bosses who showed up at an online social gathering like the constituency removing her when they could have only waited two weeks?” he said. “She just tells you that the regional bosses took it out on her two years ago because of the questions she was asking. And now they have succeeded in removing it.
My colleague Vjosa Isai looked at how Canada’s $10-a-day day care program is developing.
Olivia Chow, who arrived in Canada as a 13-year-old immigrant, this week became the first Asian Canadian mayor of Canada’s largest city. One of her first tasks will be dealing with Toronto’s unstable return from pandemic restrictions.
Toronto briefly had the worst air quality in the world this week, reports Dan Bilefsky. More than 1,500 firefighters from around the world are now helping to fight wildfires in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, which have once again sent smoke into the skies over southern parts of North America and parts of Europe. Raymond Zhong and Delger Erdenesanaa have explored the connections between climate change, high heat and wildfires. And Gaya Gupta explains why smoke from wildfires sometimes smells like burnt plastic or chemicals.
A professor and two students on a gender studies course at the University of Waterloo were stabbed by an assailant, in what police described as a “hate-motivated incident”.
The ship that carried the Titan submersible out to sea – where it imploded during a dive to view the wreck of the Titanic – has returned to St. John’s, Newfoundland, with family members of some of the five victims aboard. It was later followed by a ship carrying some of the wreckage of Titan, as well as presumed human remains.
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has written about Canada for the New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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