Ottawa police called to offices of Native Women's Association of Canada

Ottawa police said they were called to the offices of the Native Women’s Association of Canada Wednesday morning after receiving a report of a “disturbance.”

NWAC's board barred President Francyne Joe from working at organization's Ottawa office

Two police officers inside the offices of the Native Women's Association of Canada on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Submitted)

Ottawa police attended the offices of the Native Women's Association of Canada Wednesday morning after receiving a report of a "disturbance".

Ottawa police received the call from the organization's address at about 8:55 a.m., said police spokesperson Const. Chuck Benoit.

Benoit said there were no charges to report at this time.

"We dealt with the disturbance," he said.

Photos submitted to CBC News show two Ottawa police officers inside the Native Women's Association of Canada's (NWAC) offices.

Two NWAC employees, who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with media, said the call to Ottawa police occurred after NWAC President Francyne Joe arrived at the office.

One of the employees who witnessed the events said that Lynne Groulx, NWAC's CEO, initially contacted the building's landlord saying Joe was trespassing in the office.

NWAC sent a statement to CBC News saying Joe had been barred from NWAC's office earlier this week. 

 The statement said Groulx had written to NWAC's board on April 15 outlining "concerns she has regarding the inappropriate behaviour of (Joe) in the workplace." 

The statement said the board then passed a motion that Joe work at an "alternate location" and "refrain from interfering" with the organization's day-to-day operations.

The statement said Joe "defied that motion" and appeared at NWAC's offices "demonstrating the same behaviour that Ms. Groulx alleged in her letter." The statement said Groulx "felt threatened" leading to the call to the police. 

Groulx's letter to the board followed Joe's comments to CBC News last week expressing concern over allegations NWAC was gripped by a toxic work environment.

NWAC initially denied the allegations, stating they were false.

None of the employees interviewed by CBC News mentioned they had any issues with Joe and instead placed much of the blame on Groulx's management style.  

Five employees told CBC News earlier this month that the work environment at NWAC was affecting staff's mental health, leaving some crying at their desks and in the bathroom.

Joe did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the NWAC employee who witnessed the events, Joe arrived at the organization's office like "it was a normal day" and "popped in" to see some of the staff.

Ottawa police arrived on the premises and spoke twice with Joe before leaving, said the employee.

"They let her stay," said the eye-witness.

Joe eventually left her office for the day.

"All of the staff are just shook. What is going on?" said the eye-witness staff member.

"Calling the cops on an Indigenous woman is the least trauma-informed and culturally inappropriate thing anyone could do," said the second employee.