Indigenous

Internal probe hears former N.S. AFN chief may have used death threats to suppress sexual assault allegations

An investigation launched by the Assembly of First Nations gathered evidence suggesting a former regional chief from Nova Scotia used his influence along with death threats and other forms of intimidation to keep women from contacting police with allegations of sexual assault against him, CBC News has learned.

Morley Googoo was removed from role as AFN regional chief for N.S., N.L., after report completed

Morley Googoo in May 2017. In July of this year, the Assembly of First Nations hired law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin to conduct an investigation into harassment allegations against him. (Emma Smith/CBC)

An investigation launched by the Assembly of First Nations gathered evidence suggesting a former regional chief from Nova Scotia used his influence along with death threats and other forms of intimidation to keep women from contacting police with allegations of sexual assault against him, CBC News has learned.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in July hired Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, a prominent law firm with offices across Canada and internationally, to conduct an investigation into harassment allegations against Morley Googoo, who was the regional chief at the time for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The decision to remove Googoo came on Oct. 11, a day after Fasken investigators completed their report. He was removed by chiefs from Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia who determine their representative as regional chief.

Googoo had been suspended from his role by the AFN executive, which is comprised of regional chiefs from across the country, in September. Googoo was under suspension by the AFN at the time of his removal.

CBC News obtained a redacted copy of the confidential report which was compiled by two Fasken lawyers. The copy of the report obtained by CBC News does not contain the names of any of the alleged victims or their organizations.

The report reveals the serious nature and extent of allegations that surfaced against Googoo that led to his suspension and then removal as regional chief.

CBC News has not independently verified the allegations contained in the report.

The report details investigations into five allegations against Googoo. Four of the allegations "raised issues regarding...Googoo's conduct towards women." Three of the allegations involved harassment, said the report.

The Fasken report also said allegations of sexual assault surfaced during the course of the investigation.

"We received disturbing allegations of gross sexual misconduct and violence," said the report, dated Oct. 10.

Googoo denies the allegations.

"I don't agree to any of that," said Googoo, in a short phone interview with CBC News on Monday.

"I would never do that. You can see all that yourself, anyway. It's ridiculous."

The report said that during their investigation, investigators obtained "a detailed and graphic account" of a woman who was allegedly drugged and "repeatedly raped" by Googoo.

The report said the woman had been "traumatized by this event, fears for her life and does not not wish to have her name or identity disclosed."

The report said that investigators received "other allegations of rape and assault" and that many of those allegations "involved women from the Mi'kmaq community."

AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine, National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Regional Chief Morley Googoo at the First Nations Self Government Summit in Halifax in November 2018. (First Nations Self Government Summit)

The report said investigators believed "these allegations to be credible," but could not delve into them in the report because many of the victims feared potential repercussions at the hands of Googoo.

"We received reports of intimidation, destruction of property and threats of violence (including death threats) intended to discourage victims of sexual assault from reporting their experiences to police," said the report.

"The women who shared these allegations were not prepared to come forward and disclose their identity out of fear for their safety and that of their families."

The report said that the women feared Googoo's influence over the local Indigenous community. One woman allegedly lost her job after contacting a community member about her experience with Googoo and another had to relocate to another community "because of concerns for her safety," said the report.

The report notes that in 2017, Googoo was charged with assault and causing a disturbance at a hotel near Sydney, N.S. The charges were withdrawn in 2018 after Googoo went through the restorative justice system.

Report cites recording of an expletive-laden voicemail

The majority of the 33-page report examines three cases of harassment involving three women with three separate organizations.

"The evidence we uncovered points to a lengthy and repeated patterns of gross misconduct towards women, followed by an apology and a request by him for an Indigenous elder-led healing circle," said the report.

One case involved a woman identified as a member of the Métis Nation and a representative of a "highly regarded charitable organization."

Googoo, who acted as an advisor to the organization, became upset after he was denied funding in April 2018 for a personal project and allegedly targeted the woman, according to the report.

The investigators obtained an audio recording of an expletive-laden voicemail they say he left for the woman.

"Hi, this is Morley Googoo. I just wanted to let you know...F--k you. I'm going to f--k you over...F--k you in the asshole," according to a portion of the transcript of the voicemail contained in the report.

Googoo eventually sent a letter of apology on April 28, 2018, and suggested they attend an elder-led healing circle, the report said. The woman, known as "Witness A" in the redacted report, rejected the idea, according to the report.

"Witness A reported feeling unsafe in … Googoo's presence, given his history of violence," said the report.

"She felt that being confronted with...Googoo in this setting, where she would be forced to sit in proximity to him and asked to forgive him for his actions, would re-victimize her."

25 text messages in one evening: report

The second case involved a Mi'kmaw woman who was a senior executive with an Indigenous organization. She was identified as "Witness B."

Upset that the organization supported his suspension from the AFN, Googoo sent 25 text messages to the woman on the evening of Sept. 22, 2019, said the report.

In one message, Googoo blamed the woman for failing to prevent the suicide of her relative, said the report. That same evening, Googoo posted a now-deleted Facebook message "that contained veiled threats" against the AFN and the woman's organization, according to the report.

"This incident was particularly brazen because it occurred while … Googoo was under suspension by the AFN for alleged harassment," said the report.

"And as he was being investigated by us for harassment and intimidation by us."

Googoo then delivered an apology, said the report.

"It is noteworthy that, a year and a half earlier, he had apologized to (Witness A). Despite the apology...he did not change his behaviour," said the report.

Tripartite Forum investigation

The third case, though the report does not name her, is that of Cheryl Maloney, the former leader of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, on which CBC News has previously reported.

In July, CBC News reported that a workplace investigation commissioned by the Tripartite Forum — a federal, provincial and Mi'kmaq government organization — had found the former regional chief engaged in gender-based bullying against Maloney and other Mi'kmaq women.

Cheryl Maloney has filed human rights complaints against the Tripartite Forum executive committee and its federal, provincial, and First Nations partners over their failure to address gender-based discrimination involving Googoo. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

According to the Tripartite Forum investigation, Maloney alleged that Googoo engaged in gender-based bullying against Maloney and other women, harmed her reputation "by maliciously relaying negative information about her, particularly to (Mi'kmaq) chiefs," and that in a 2017 phone call, he subjected her to threats and verbal abuse.

The allegations are now the subject of four human rights complaints before the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, according to the report.

In July, the AFN put Googoo on notice that he could face suspension after the organization became aware of the Tripartite Forum report's findings, according to the Fasken document. The AFN then hired Fasken to investigate harassment allegations against Googoo.

The other two allegations in the firm's investigation report involved his behaviour at two Ottawa hotels while he was on AFN business. In one incident, Googoo allegedly asked hotel staff to screen sex trade workers for him, said the report. The report said the manager notified the AFN that this behaviour would not be tolerated.

In another incident, he was allegedly found unconscious on the floor of a hotel hallway by a guest who was able to identify him by his AFN convention nametag, according to the report.

The report said that during the investigation, the AFN offered to support Googoo "in seeking treatment to address any substance abuse problems." Googoo rejected the offer, said the report.

Report says Googoo 'ignored' requests not to contact chiefs

The Fasken report also said Googoo tried to interfere repeatedly with the investigation by contacting other AFN regional chiefs in lobbying efforts to avoid his suspension.

The AFN executive suspended Googoo on Sept. 4 and sent a letter requesting he not communicate with any of the regional chiefs.

"Googoo decided to ignore this request," said the report.

"In the days and weeks that followed...Googoo continued to reach out to individual board members, despite being asked not to do so."

The AFN declined a request to comment.

Googoo told CBC News he has not been contacted by police.

Googoo's lawyer, Dennis James, with the Truro, N.S.,- based Patterson Law firm, sent a letter to CBC News calling the Fasken report "incomplete" and threatening to sue if the report's findings were published.

"Mr. Googoo has never responded to the report, was not interviewed by the AFN or given the opportunity to speak before the AFN board and was not provided with a final copy of the report," said the letter from James.

"The report is therefore incomplete, and the statements made therein may be incorrect and therefore defamatory to Mr. Googoo."

However, the Fasken report states that investigators provided Googoo with their findings on Oct. 10. Googoo was given 20 days to "make submissions and tender any evidence" before the AFN board in response to the findings, according to the report.

The report said that Googoo failed to provide information requested by the investigators and that he "challenged the investigators and the investigation." At one point, he called the requests for information a "fishing expedition," said the report.

About the Author

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.