AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas goes on leave to 'heal' after Facebook allegations
Denies contacting woman via fake account, but admits other communication
The leader of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is temporarily leaving his role to "heal" just days after being accused of inappropriate communication with a much younger woman.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Grand Chief Arlen Dumas strongly denied the accusations he used a fake Facebook account to chat with the woman, but admitted he had other communications with her.
"The very clear upset expressed by this woman has caused me to reconsider my open and informal communication style," Dumas said in the statement.
"Upon reflection, I realize that this style of open and informal communication may not be suited to the role of Grand Chief."
Dumas said he will be taking a brief leave of absence from his AMC leadership role to undergo counselling and professional sensitivity training to ensure his communications are more formal.
As he approaches his second year leading the assembly, which advocates on behalf of 62 First Nations in the province, Dumas is being accused of sending a series of messages to a woman from a Facebook account under the name Charles Forbes. Subsequent media reports described her as a 22-year-old, some two decades younger than Dumas.
CBC is not naming the woman because it has not independently verified the allegations.
"I never operated a fake Facebook account called Charles Forbes," Dumas said in his statement. "This appears to be a manufactured political smear."
The Grand Chief admitted he was in contact with the woman, saying she asked him for advice, which he said he provided to her and subsequently messaged her to follow up.
He denied pursuing intimate relations with the woman, but admitted his behaviour hasn't always been the most professional.
As Chief of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation for 10 years, Dumas said he regularly hugged visitors to the band office and informally communicated on pressing issues with staff, community members, other leaders and colleagues via phone calls and texts at all hours.
"If I have ever made anyone else feel uncomfortable in my communication style, then I would also like to apologize to them as well. I can assure you that this was never my intention, but what matters here is how people feel. I take responsibility for that."
The statement indicates Dumas will be briefly stepping away from his leadership duties to deal with his own traumas, but did not go into further detail about the tragedies. His son, who had cystic fibrosis, died earlier this year.
"Despite his many losses, he has not taken off sufficient time to heal with his family," the statement reads, adding the "media circus" surrounding the recent allegations have become "a distraction to the important issues facing First Nations in Manitoba."
Chief Sheldon Kent of Black River First Nation will replace Dumas during his leave of absence.
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- With files from The Canadian Press