By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Assembly of Treaty Chiefs (AOTC) have announced that a motion to remove Marlene Poitras from the position of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief has been supported by Alberta Chiefs — effective retroactively as of July 1, 2020.
“In the exercise of our inherent and Treaty rights to determine who speaks for us at a national and international level,” said the motion. “The necessary notices will be sent to the national office with the appropriate authority to deal with outstanding issues.”
“Finally the chiefs will determine who and when representations will be made at the national and international level on our behalf,” the motion concluded.
The position will remain empty until a new election is held.
The AOTC has a vacancy clause that states if the position of Regional Chief is vacant, its duties will be assigned to the six executive chiefs.
The AOTC represents 49 First Nations in Alberta, with each of the three treaty areas operating through a Provincial-Territorial Organization (PTO)—Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations (CTSFN), Treaty 7 First Nations Chiefs’ Association (T7FNCA), and Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.
The reason for the removal of Poitras stems from a long-standing issue between her office and multiple First Nations in Alberta.
Poitras’ 3 year term in office was supposed to end in June, however an election to replace her never took place and she continued to present herself as the AFN regional chief.
Thus, some First Nations believed her role was illegitimate.
Interim Executive Director of CTSFN, Cameron Alexis said, “As a former Regional Chief, I’m very disappointed to hear and observe the actions of Marlene Poitras whose term ended on June 30, 2021.
“Months later, she still occupies the seat at the National AFN table, a seat that our Nations elected her to for a fixed term. She has disrespected the Chiefs and our people with her refusal to vacate the office.”
Then in November, CTFSN — an Indigenous organization that represents 17 First Nations within Treaty six — announced it was initiating legal action to remove Poitras from the position of Regional Chief due to her refusal to acknowledge the end of her term.
The CTFSN alleged that during her extended mandate she received pay, presented herself as the Regional Chief online and at meetings with government and AFN officials.
The organization also stated that the Assembly of First Nations Alberta Association (AFNAA), of which Poitras was president, had no actual legal standing associated with the AFN.
The Confederacy then alleged that the AFNAA had channeled over $1.26 million dollars from the AFN and the federal government.
Grand Chief Greg Desjarlais of CTSFN said, “Individual Nations have sent cease and desist letters to her. She has been chairing and sitting in executive meetings at the AFN National Level, making decisions that affect our Treaty Rights and the future rights of our children.”
He added: “when all else failed, we brought an emergency injunction in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.”
However, now that Poitras is no longer in office, it is unclear as to how litigation will continue.