Transcript: One-on-one with AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald

2022-06-24 05:21:10

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief RoseAnne Archibald is speaking out in an exclusive broadcast interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play following her suspension by the organization.

Archibald alleges she’s been undermined and discredited for seeking to uncover corruption and a lack of transparency internally. She is calling for a forensic audit to examine the AFN’s inner workings over the past eight years.

The AFN’s executive committee and board of directors announced Archibald’s suspension with pay on June 17, pending the outcome of an investigation into four complaints against her.

Below if a full transcript of the interview with CTV News Channel’s Power Play’s Evan Solomon:

Evan Solomon: “National chief, you and I have spent a long time talking over the years. I didn’t think we’d have this discussion. After they suspended you with pay, you wrote that you were being attacked, discredited and undermined. Can you tell us exactly what you think this is about?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Well, first of all, I have always stood for transparency, accountability and truth. I have been a leader for 33 years and that has always been the basis of my leadership. I have certain values, certain ethics that I have to follow and I’ve always, always created safe, healthy workplaces wherever I’ve gone. And in the last four years, three of which I was a regional chief, and this year as national chief, have been very difficult at the Assembly of First Nations for me in trying to change the organization and make it a healthier, more transparent workplace, particularly when it comes to large staff payouts and contracts.”

“I have been battling this issue for four years, particularly the last year of my term as regional chief. I did ask the chiefs of Ontario to pass a resolution asking for an independent review, an independent financial review of the organization to look at staff payouts and to look at contracts and that was really thwarted by the Assembly of First Nations Secretariat, which is the corporation.”

“What people might not understand, Evan, is that there are two parts of this organization. One is a corporation, where the money flows through, that’s the problematic body, and then there’s the political part of the body, which is run by a confederacy of nations which has been defunct for many years. And this has caused the secretariat corporation to really be operating in a manner that, in my view, is corrupt and has allowed certain payouts to happen and certain contracts to go through that are certainly questionable, and certainly against transparency.”

“This all started for me, Evan, when I was approached to approve a million plus dollar payout for staff. That’s where this journey began for me and that happened in early May. When that came to me, I just thought this is wrong. I cannot ethically give a million dollars when I know that our First Nations are in dire need. Our First Nations need clean drinking water. They need good housing. They need me as a national chief to have a healthy work office space with the proper amount of staff so I can start to address those issues and that’s where it really started.”

Evan Solomon: “Ok, let me just try to unpack this. One, the million dollars, you said they approved payout to staff of a million dollars. Can you tell us who that money was supposed to go to and maybe in answering that, you said there’s corruption of payout. In your view, who is behind all this?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Well, the million is an actual request and I denied that request and that was the beginning of the problems for me. That’s the first part. These payouts are known in the AFN. They’re known to happen, Evan. In fact, the CEO in a meeting said to me staff have come to expect big payouts when they lead this organization. And that’s why I want the forensic audit, because the audit will show what were these recent payouts? How much were they? Who did they go to? Who are they relationally in the organization? Were they the national chief’s office staff? Were they the secretariat stuff? There’s a lot of questions to be answered just on the issue of large payouts.”

Evan Solomon: “But you say you’re being undermined, discredited, and attacked because you’ve uncovered these, what you say is corruption. Can you tell us, who is undermining you? Who is attacking you? And in your view, who is behind what you call corruption?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Well, in terms of staff payouts, that’s what we need the actual forensic audit to show us who is behind approving these large amounts, and that’s the first part of it. In terms of who’s undermining me, I definitely feel like the AFN executive, which is the regional chiefs, but not all of them, are really trying to use that corporate part of the organization to undermine me. So I definitely feel like their actions in trying to suspend me, which they cannot do under the AFN charter, I am not a suspended national chief, I want to be clear about that. I am still the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and will continue to be so until the chiefs and assembly tell me otherwise. So I definitely feel like there are regional chiefs who are – perhaps they would like to have this position. I’m not clear on all of their motivations, but I can tell you that they are definitely, a couple of them, are really behind this push that’s happening to me right now.”

Evan Solomon: “You say you have documented proof of corruption. Are you going to reveal this documented proof of corruption? Are you going to publish it? Are you going to talk about it?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “I am going to reveal it. The problem I’m having Evan, is there’s a couple of things that legally I have to sort through, one of them is my oath. So I have an oath to let the chiefs know of potential dangers to their communities, to their sovereignty. And so that’s why I’m speaking out, that’s why I’ve gone public because I need chiefs to know what is going on. I’ve talked to the chiefs in Ontario in a private in-camera session, and that actually was recorded by somebody and shared with the media. And so that is actually me doing my job of telling the chiefs in Ontario what I have discovered. The other part of it, though, Evan, is this issue around corporate bylaws. So when you sit on a corporation, most people don’t know this, but your job is to protect the corporation at all costs. And that’s why we have whistleblowers, because sometimes these corporations are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and people have to call them out. And that’s what I’m doing, but I’m not a whistleblower, I’m the national chief just doing my job of letting people know what’s going on.”

Evan Solomon: “The former national chief Perry Bellegarde, I know you’ve had conflict with him when he was national chief and you were a regional chief. Now you want a forensic audit of the last eight years. Are you suggesting that the former national chief Perry Bellegarde was aware of corruption or is in any way shape or form a part of this? Is that part of your allegation?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Well, eight years includes one year with me. So it’s not just a targeted thing for the former national chief. It’s to look at these years because I know four of those seven years I have really battled for transparency and accountability and honest operations. It’s been an uphill battle, you know, and this last year has been so difficult it finally just came to a head with these allegations and I thought, you know what, I cannot go slipping into the dark with these people and let them slowly, you know, in secret, do these bad things. I have to be public about it.”

Evan Solomon: “But national chief, you know every year the AFN has an independent audit from Deloitte. Those audits are presented to the chiefs at the Annual General Assembly. They are posted on the AFN website. So if there was corruption, if there are large inappropriate payouts, Deloitte would have captured that. Those reports, I’ve gone and looked at them from 2010 to 2021, they do not reveal anything about these kinds of improper allegations. What does that tell you?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Well, audits as you know, Evan, people again might not be aware of this, are actually a selection. So you grab a few pieces of information, and you go through those pieces of information. An audit is not actually looking deeply into all of the things that are happening in an organization. And that’s what a forensic audit does. It looks at all of the transactions, it looks at who approved those? Where did that money go? Why did that money go there? That’s what a forensic audit does. An audit is just a big picture and the thing about auditing, and somebody just told me this today, and I thought, yeah, that person’s right, if you’re buddies with the say, for example, the CEO who’s running the audit or the, you know, the senior manager in that place, they can actually steer you away from the documents that you would need to see as an auditor. So an actual audit doesn’t reveal these kinds of things. You have to do a forensic audit to get to that level.”

Evan Solomon: “Do you think this has anything to do with the fact that you’re the first female national chief?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Absolutely, 100 per cent. I, you know, I broken this glass ceiling five times, Evan. Every time I’ve gone in as the first woman, it’s been extraordinarily difficult. And this AFN, the Assembly of First Nations, is one of the worst places for misogyny, and the treatment of women which is why we passed Resolution 13 in December 2020. You might remember I got into hot water there again, because I spoke for the resolution so that we could have a safe space for women and to 2SL people. Before that, there was a lot of horror stories that people have been emailing me, texting me, and calling me about before Resolution 13 came about.”

“And so ultimately, this whole situation really is about changing the organization and operating in a different way than a male would operate in this organization and that kind of pushback of like, ‘no, no, we can’t have that kind of change. We can’t have a woman’s approach to this.’ Because women want accountability. Every woman chief I know wants transparency and that I think is one of the biggest obstacles that women have in these political spaces, is they’re asked to sort of go into the system and just be absorbed and go with how things are.”

“You know, I’ve been told this actually in conversations, ‘RoseAnne, why are you doing this? This is just how things are. This is how contracts are.’ In my mind, I thought, and I don’t mean to overreach on this, but this story popped in my mind. Rosa Parks sat in a part of the bus where she was not supposed to be sitting according to the law. And I’m sure somebody told Rosa Parks ‘you know, Rosa, this is just how it is. You better get to the back of the bus.’ And she did not, she as a woman said, ‘No, this is wrong.’”

Evan Solomon: “You’re feeling like that?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “No, I’m trying to make a bigger analogy that people have told me, ‘RoseAnne, this is how the AFN is, why don’t you just go with the flow? Why don’t you go along to get along?’ Because I can’t Evan, I’m a highly ethical person. I really care and love our people. I want them to be better. I want our lives to be better. I believe that we have a vision of happy, healthy children, you know, surrounded by the love and care of their families living in safe and vibrant communities and I just really want to work toward that.”

Evan Solomon: “But national chief, I don’t know if you’re going to get the chance. You are prohibited from attending the AFN’s Annual General Assembly next month. Power Play spoke to McLeod Lake Indian Band Chief Harley Chingee, he now says he is drawing up a non-confidence vote into your leadership. There will be a non-confidence vote he says on July 5, the day the assembly kicks off. They believe that is the way that you will lose your job. If this way they can’t suspend you, there will be a non-confidence vote. What is your reaction to that?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “First of all, they can’t do that under the charter. The only people that can call a non-confidence vote or who can initiate that process are the confederacy of nations. And there is a resolution right now to get rid of the confederacy of nations. So people have to either decide if that political body is going to be there and that meeting has to be called and then that confederacy of nations has to say we’re calling a special chiefs assembly for the purpose of reviewing the national team. That cannot happen in a day, that actually has to be planned out properly. So that’s not going to happen, as much as Harley Chingee wants that to happen. It’s not going to happen. The other thing they can’t do, Evan, is they can’t stop me from going to the meeting. The AFN executive is really overstepping their bounds, which is why I felt I had to get a lawyer involved to go through the charter to show how the AFN executive is acting.”

Evan Solomon: “So you’re going to show up?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Of course I’m going to show up, it’s my job. I’m still the national chief, I have to be there. Yeah, of course.”

Evan Solomon: “Right now, given your allegations of corruption, of large payouts, that you’re being attacked, the lack of transparency, misogyny, how would you describe the AFN? What is your description of in your view of what you’re facing right now at the AFN?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “I want to tell you about my objective and my motivation, Evan, I want to clean this up. I want a healing path forward. I want us to walk out of this and know that we can be better, that we can actually fulfill our mandate and heal. And that’s the most important thing. I’ve been attacked, but you’ll notice, Evan, I’m not attacking back. I’m just trying to illuminate and show the truth to people and get people on a healing path. It’s so ironic, because the name of this meeting is called ‘walking the healing path’ yet that’s the opposite of what’s happening and that’s what I really want to see is for us to heal from this and get better.”

Evan Solomon: “Just on a yes or no, know you’re not allowed to comment on this, but you are cooperating with the investigation against you?”

RoseAnne Archibald: “That’s right, yes.”

Evan Solomon: “OK. There’s a lot going on. First of all, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you joining us here to talk about this. The Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, thank you so much, I appreciate it.”

RoseAnne Archibald: “Thank you Evan, take care.”

Evan Solomon: “You too.”

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