Ex-TRC commissioner sues AFN national chief over disclosure of contracts, corruption claims

Two First Nations leaders are suing AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald for defamation alleging she wrongly accused them of corruption by disclosing details of their contracts earlier this year.

Wilton Littlechild and Laurie Buffalo's defamation suit is 2nd filed against Archibald in as many months

A man sit wearing a headdress.
Wilton Littlechild, a former commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is one of two plaintiffs suing the AFN national chief for defamation. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Two First Nations leaders are suing the Assembly of First Nations national chief for defamation, alleging RoseAnne Archibald wrongly accused them of corruption by disclosing details of their contracts to chiefs across Canada earlier this year.

Laurie Buffalo and Wilton Littlechild allege Archibald in July "falsely and maliciously" implicated them in fraudulent activity and collusion with the AFN, according to a Dec. 8 statement of claim filed in Vancouver.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. 

Buffalo is a businesswoman, Samson Cree Nation councillor and contract adviser at the AFN, says the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Vancouver Sun.

Littlechild is a Cree chief, lawyer, former member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and former chairperson for the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

They were awarded AFN contracts in either or both of 2020 and 2021, the lawsuit says. It contains no further details about what they were hired to do.

They allege Archibald emailed a list of contracts to roughly 60 AFN member chiefs on July 1, 2022. CBC News has independently obtained this email along with its attachments, whose contents have also been reported by APTN News.

The list Archibald emailed indicates Buffalo received an $80,000 contract from the AFN in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Littlechild received a contract worth $320,000 in 2020-2021 and another contract worth $150,000 in 2021-2022, according to the list.

The pair alleges their contract information was confidential and claim Archibald breached her obligations to keep confidential information secret when she disseminated it.

They say they've suffered reputational harm and request unspecified general, punitive and aggravated damages and an injunction restraining Archibald from further alleging Buffalo and Littlechild are involved in corruption or collusion with the AFN.

Archibald and her legal counsel did not immediately reply to a request for comment. CBC News has asked counsel for Littlechild and Buffalo to confirm the value of their contracts and provide details on the work.

It's now the second lawsuit filed against Archibald in as many months based on her corruption allegations. Gull Bay Chief Wilfred King is also suing for defamation after Archibald allegedly disclosed his $22,500 AFN contract.

His allegations have also not been tested in court.

Emails and request for audit

Buffalo and Littlechild allege Archibald sent a series of emails to chiefs across Canada during her ongoing campaign for a probe into AFN finances about a year into her term as national chief.

According to the statement of claim, on June 20, 2022, Archibald sent the chiefs an email with a news release attached where she requested a forensic audit of AFN contracts and a probe "to root out corruption, collusion and the toxic environment" at the AFN.

She sent another email to the AFN chiefs requesting support for the forensic audit on June 25, 2022, according to the claim.

A politician rises with her hands in the air.
Assembly of First Nations national chief RoseAnne Archibald following the results of a vote on an emergency resolution that looked to continue her suspension on July 5. A total of 252 First Nations chiefs and proxies voted against the resolution, while only 44 voted in favour. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

On July 1, 2022, she sent the chiefs an email from her personal account containing the words "URGENT & CONFIDENTIAL: proof of corruption," saying "attached are documents and emails which in my view show corruption and collusion at the AFN Secretariat," the suit alleges.

One of the documents attached to the email contains a list of AFN contractors and the dollar value of their contracts, the claim says.

Buffalo and Littlechild allege the emails, statement and attachments defamed them by suggesting they colluded with the AFN to enter into fraudulent contracts, committed fraud, were corrupt, dishonest and could not be trusted in business dealings.

"All of which are false," the claim alleges.

The plaintiffs say they wrote to Archibald and her legal counsel, Aaron Detlor and David Shiller, requesting an apology, but received no response.

Controversy and attempted ouster

High-stakes controversy at the AFN exploded that July after four senior members of the national chief's office filed misconduct complaints against Archibald.

Archibald countered by accusing the complainants of colluding with the AFN secretariat, which is the AFN's corporate arm, to obtain full contract payouts topping $1 million.

The regional chiefs moved to suspend Archibald and commission an independent probe into the misconduct allegations shortly after, but Archibald maintained the suspension was illegal.

At the AFN's general assembly in Vancouver, chiefs voted to cancel the suspension and commission a financial review at the AFN and, if necessary, a forensic audit going back a decade.

During the assembly, on July 7, Archibald said she had "sent the information with respect to corruption to all chiefs across Canada. It's in emails, confidential emails to the chiefs."

Alongside financial statements that mention Buffalo, Littlechild, King and numerous others, Archibald's July 1 email contains a chronology offering Archibald's perspective on the turmoil, a memo demanding a forensic audit, and supporting screenshots of internal AFN documents and emails.

The AFN has not denied the authenticity of the contract list despite being presented with multiple chances.


Brett Forester is a reporter with CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario who previously worked as a journalist with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

With files from Olivia Stefanovich