By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Roseanne Archibald says her recent suspension was retaliation for her efforts to uncover corruption and a lack of transparency in the organization.
Archibald told CTV News in an exclusive interview that she wants to see a forensic audit of the AFN’s finances over the last eight years.
The AFN’s executive committee voted to suspend her with pay on June 17, pending the outcome of investigations into four complaints against her, and has barred her from the AFN’s annual general meeting in July, where there will be a non-confidence vote on her leadership. Archibald insists she will attend that meeting.
Archibald told CTV Power Play host Evan Solomon that her problems began when she was asked to approve a $1-million payout to staff in early May.
“When that came to me, I just thought this is wrong. I cannot ethically give a million dollars when I know that our First Nations are in dire need,” she said.
“Our First Nations need clean drinking water. They need good housing. They need me as a national chief to have a healthy work office space with the proper amount of staff so I can start to address those issues and that’s where it really started.”
Archibald said an audit will determine how many of these sorts of payments have been made and to whom.
She said there’s tension between the corporate part of the AFN, which she says is corrupt, and the political part, which is run by a confederacy of nations that has been undermined by the corporate side.
While accounting firm Deloitte does annual audits of the AFN’s expenses, which can be viewed on the AFN website, Archibald claims they are selective and don’t provide a full picture, which is why she’s calling for a forensic audit.
Archibald added that as the first female national chief, she’s become a target for misogyny.
According to reporting from the CBC, Archibald’s suspension stems from four allegations of bullying and harassment from her own staff members.
The complaints include an objection to Archibald’s alleged introduction of the Hawaiian cultural practice of ho’oponopono. According to the complaints, Archibald recited prayers during weekly meetings in response to their errors and asked them to share their childhood traumas.
Aaron Deltor, Archibald’s lawyer, told the CBC he’s unaware of the chief having introduced any Hawaiian cultural practices.
Sources told the CBC Archibald created a toxic work environment since she took office last year, with her harsh criticisms of her staff’s work reducing them to tears.
They also claim Archibald demanded the same salary as the prime minister and refused to sign her employment contract, which Deltor said is “simply incorrect.”
The allegations were filed under the AFN’s new whistleblower policy, which was created last year after a separate allegation of bullying and harassment against Archibald from her time as Ontario regional chief.
Regional Chief Paul Prosper, an AFN spokesperson, told the CBC the organization was obligated to suspend Archibald. This is the first time a national chief has been suspended by the executive.
“It is regrettable that we had to take this severe action, but we had no other choice,” Prosper said in a statement.
“The National Chief has committed serious breaches of her obligations to the AFN through unfounded and unsubstantiated public attacks on the integrity of our organization and our employees that will only serve to undermine the good work we do as we continue to serve our First Nations communities.”
He also criticized her decision to publicly comment on the investigation against her. According to Prosper, the meeting where the executive decided to suspend her lasted several hours.