Chiefs pass resolution to review Assembly of First Nations finances

National Chief RoseAnne Archibald had been calling for a forensic audit, alleging corruption within the organization.

RoseAnne Archibald calls it 'a victory' for chiefs seeking transparency and accountability

AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald had been calling for a forensic audit, alleging corruption within the organization. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

An emergency resolution regarding an investigation into the Assembly of First Nations' financial and management practices finally made it to the floor of its annual general assembly Thursday, after many amendments.

The resolution, moved by chief Wendy Jocko of Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, Ont., directs the Chiefs Committee on Charter Renewal to conduct a review of financial policies and practices and provide a report with recommendations to the AFN Executive Committee.

The resolution was adopted, with 75 per cent of chiefs and proxies in attendance voting in favour. A total of 148 chiefs and proxies voted in favour of the resolution, while 50 voted against. There were 18 abstentions.

"We as chiefs deserve to know what's happening inside of our organization," said Lance Haymond, chief of Kebaowek in Quebec, who seconded the resolution.

Kluane Adamek, Yukon regional chief and chair of the AFN's management committee, said she signed off on the latest audit Sunday.

"From our perspective and the information that was shared, I did not see any concerns with respect to the information that I have reviewed as part of the management committee and as chair," she told the assembly.

Lance Haymond, chief of Kebaowek First Nation in Quebec, seconded an emergency resolution calling for a review of the AFN's financial practices. (Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC)

The Chiefs Committee on Charter Renewal, which is made up chiefs who review governance issues, will examine how the current practice and process of awarding contracts is exercised, review policies and processes that address transparency and accountability, and conflicts of interest.

The resolution also directs the committee to make recommendations if an independent, third-party forensic audit into the last 10 years is required, focusing on recent salary payouts and contracts.

'A victory'

The lengthy resolution also directs the national chief and executive committee to begin a process of reconciliation, and for the Chiefs Committee on Charter Renewal to implement a previous resolution passed in 2020 to eradicate gender-based discrimination within the organization, in conjunction with an independent third-party investigation into the climate of toxicity, bullying, and lateral violence.

"A number of the executive have already reached out to me to say how are we going to start to walk forward, and we are already thinking about how to bring elders in the process, how to do a healing process so that we can walk forward together," said National Chief RoseAnne Archibald.

The resolution stems from support for Archibald. Regional chiefs suspended her last month after she made public statements accusing four staff members of requesting more than $1 million in severance payouts. She has also been calling for a forensic audit alleging corruption within the organization.

In reaction to the resolution being adopted, Archibald said it's not a personal victory, but a victory for chiefs in assembly wanting transparency and accountability.

"It's a victory for them," she said.

"It's a victory for all grassroots people that have been calling for this for many years."

Thursday is the final day of the 43rd annual general assembly, titled Walking the Healing Path, in Vancouver.

Several federal ministers are expected to speak to the assembly Thursday afternoon. Ahead of addressing the assembly, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said, "It's important that AFN continue to make those determinations for themselves about how they wish to report to their members.

"This is obviously something that is an internal decision to the AFN and we'll be here to support them in those processes."

Committee member says it will need resources

The charter renewal committee currently has a number of vacancies. Khelsilem, elected chairperson of the Squamish Nation, sits on the committee, and said he hopes the resolution will bring momentum for its many projects.

"My hope is to get a lot of work done in the next two months so that we could be ready to bring as many recommendations forward by the December general assembly," said Khelsilem.

Khelsilem is the elected chairperson of the Squamish Nation and sits on the Chiefs Committee on Charter Renewal. (Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC)

However, he's worried the committee won't get the resources needed to get said work done — whether it be legal, technical or communication support.

"There's definitely going to be a need for significant resources to help support that work," he said.

"If we're not able to start making some necessary changes I worry about the effectiveness of the organization to be able to deliver the result it needs to deliver."

with files from Olivia Stefanovich