Top First Nations leader in Manitoba accused of sexual assault by staff member

Manitoba's top chief has been accused of sexual assault by a woman he worked with.

Formal complaint filed against Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, Winnipeg police confirm

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is being accused of sexual assault by a colleague. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Manitoba's top chief has been accused of sexual assault by a woman he worked with. 

In a letter obtained by CBC News, a woman who worked with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs accuses Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of harassment and sexual assault. Her identity is being protected because she said she is a victim of sexual assault. 

The Winnipeg Police Service said a formal complaint through the sex crimes unit was filed against Dumas, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.

It said the police spokesperson would not reveal information about the accuser or accused, or the details of the allegation.

Dumas, who has not been formally charged, did not respond Thursday night to a request for comment from CBC. In a late text, AMC chief of staff Natalie Ballentyne wrote "the grand chief's office has not received any complaint."

On Friday, the AMC's executive council of chiefs will hold an emergency meeting at noon to address the allegations, CBC News has learned.

Other victims possible: accuser

In the letter, which was addressed to the executive council, the woman said she wanted to bring immediate attention to breaches of AMC's code of the conduct, "based on my personal experiences of harassment, sexual harassment and sexualized violence," she wrote.

"I believe there should be urgency in this matter, as I suspect other women of AMC have or are experiencing the same thing."

She alleges she's felt harassed by Dumas by phone, in person and virtually since her second day of employment with AMC.

"My personal experience of harassment and sexual misconduct has created an unsafe work environment where I have been subjugated to gender-based violence," she wrote.

"I am unable to provide more details to this issue, as a formal complaint has been filed with the Winnipeg Police Service Sex Crimes Unit, but I can confirm from my experience, I was sexually assaulted."

Dumas has been accused of misconduct before.

In 2019, it was alleged he sent "inappropriate" messages and texts to Bethany Maytwayashing, a 22-year-old woman. 

Dumas strongly denied accusations he was pursuing intimate relations with the woman, but admitted his behaviour hasn't always been the most professional. He took a brief leave of absence from his Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs leadership role to undergo counselling and professional sensitivity training to ensure his communications are more formal.

She recently told the Free Press the AMC has refused to explain how it investigated Dumas.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs advocates on behalf of 62 First Nations in Manitoba, including Anishnaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dene and Dakota peoples.

Dumas was first elected grand chief in 2017 and was re-elected last summer.

With files from Ian Froese