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Assembly of First Nations chiefs vote for financial audit at its annual gathering

Review will look at finances dating back at least a decade
Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald speaks during the AFN annual general meeting, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. It’s the last day of the Assembly of First Nations annual gathering Vancouver and the issue of leadership still hasn’t been solved.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Delegates at the Assembly of First Nations have agreed to a forensic review of its finances dating back at least a decade in a resolution that says a serious problem exists within the assembly that is causing “reputational harm.”

It comes after National Chief RoseAnne Archibald claimed she was suspended last month for trying to investigate corruption within the organization.

The executive committee said Archibald was suspended while an investigation into four complaints against her by her staff is conducted.

Chiefs voted to reinstate her on Tuesday and a vote of non-confidence in Archibald’s leadership was withdrawn from the assembly without a vote on Wednesday.

Before Thursday’s approval of the audit, some chiefs voiced concerns about the cost of the financial review, while others called it a necessary process to “establish truth.”

Chief Lance Haymond of Kebaowek First Nation in Quebec was the seconder on the resolution. He said the time has come for a new governance model for the assembly to connect with its people.

“It’s great that you know we’ve used this model for 40 years, but it’s broken. Let’s do the work. Let’s get the answers that the chiefs are asking for, and let’s work towards a more renewed and better AFN that really responds to the realities that we have to live today.”

The resolution also calls for the national chief and the AFN executive committee to come together to heal their relationships, take part in the human resources investigation to resolve the staff complaints and stop talking to the media until the probe is complete.

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis told delegates that the audit and other measures approved in the resolution will allow for a process that provides proof.

“When you make accusations about corruption, gender bias, you know, nepotism and all these, you’re levelling that accusation against us because we are the assembly and that is something that needs to be very clear.”

Following the vote, Serpent River First Nation Chief Brent Bisaillon approached the microphone and voiced his disappointment ”with the actions of the assembly” and announced he would be leaving the meeting early.

“This is not leadership. This is not what our people expect of us as leaders,” he said.

“Our youth have called out this assembly for inaction, and the last few days have been mired in drama and ego.”

Bisaillon said his nation would be suspending its participation in the remainder of the assembly in “these times of uncertainty, distractions and lack of leadership within the AFN.”

Rosalie LaBillois, AFN’s youth council co-chair, said Wednesday that politics and disagreements around leadership at the gathering have got in the way of Indigenous topics that matter most.

—The Canadian Press

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