AFN National Chief’s Urgent Court Application Rejected

Ontario Regional Chief Roseanne Archibald
National Chief Roseanne Archibald

OTTAWA – INDIGENOUS – The Executive Committee of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) stated today that they “Have successfully resisted the attempt by National Chief RoseAnne Archibald to have a court convene an urgent hearing to overturn her suspension and mandate her attendance throughout the AFN Annual General Assembly (AGA) next week in Vancouver, B.C. The AFN Executive Committee has previously made it clear that, despite her suspension, the National Chief will not be prevented from attending to speak to a resolution that the Chiefs in Assembly ratify and continue the suspension”.

“This decision, in our view, properly declined to intervene in the Executive Committee’s decision to suspend the National Chief, and does not support the claims that our actions were illegal or outside our authority,” said Regional Chief Paul Prosper, spokesperson for the AFN. “We are sorry that the National Chief chose the path of colonial court confrontation to resolve this. This issue does not belong with lawyers or the courts. This matter is rightfully being brought before the First Nations to address. That said, the Court has spoken. It is now time to turn our attention to what matters: an Annual General Assembly that will address the urgent and substantive issues facing our people.”

In a decision earlier today, an Ontario Superior Court judge declined to take action on a request by the National Chief for an urgent hearing to be held prior to the start of the AGA, which begins Monday. The Court was not prepared to interfere with the National Chief’s suspension before the Chiefs in Assembly could consider the matter.

The Executive Committee argued that the National Chief’s court action raised disputes that are part of First Nations’ self-governance, and should not be resolved by Canadian courts. The AFN’s lawyers argued that there are better forums for resolving the matter, including the mandatory dispute resolution process reflected in the AFN’s by-laws and Code of Conduct, and the upcoming AGA.

The Court’s decision against weighing in on this matter was welcomed by the members of the Executive Committee who reject the National Chief’s allegations that her suspension was unlawful.

The Executive Committee previously said it would bar the National Chief from attending the AGA to prevent the dispute from interfering with the important business already on the agenda. It has since offered to allow her to attend the meeting and to address the Chiefs in Assembly regarding a proposed resolution related to her continued suspension and further participation in the AGA.

Although the National Chief will now be permitted to make her case to the Chiefs in Assembly, it is the fervent hope of the Executive Committee that this matter can be dealt with expediently and with fairness to all of the individuals affected by the National Chief’s actions. It should not be allowed to significantly distract from the important work that must take place at the AGA – the work that is done on behalf of the 900,000 First Nations people in Canada.

On June 17, 2022, the National Chief was suspended with pay pending the outcome of a current investigation into four human resources complaints lodged against her by her staff. She will be suspended until the investigation report is completed so that a final decision may be made regarding her status. The Executive Committee’s decision to suspend the National Chief followed her public statement issued on June 16, 2022, that breached her obligations to the AFN contrary to her Oath of Office, the organization’s Code of Conduct, and AFN Whistleblower Policy. The Executive Committee is gravely concerned that the National Chief has continued to make public statements and release selective confidential information since that time, raising similar concerns.

The Ontario Superior Court is expected to release brief written reasons for its decision in the near future, to explain its decision not to intervene in advance of the AGA.

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