Despite some efforts to limit her attendance, National Leader RoseAnne Archibald led the grand procession to the First Nations Assembly’s annual general meeting on Tuesday.
She wore regalia and carried the eagle staff – her sacred responsibility as national chief – and was escorted into the ballroom of the Vancouver Convention Center by elders, veterans, chiefs and delegates.
“I’m the kind of leader that when difficult circumstances come, it makes it even stronger,” she told reporters ahead of the procession.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a difficult day, it’s just going to be a day when the truth will be revealed, and the truth is something that’s never hard to talk about.”
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Archibald was suspended this month by the AFN Executive Committee and its national board pending the results of an inquiry into workplace grievances from four of its employees.
The day before, Archibald had publicly called for a forensic review and independent investigation into the alleged corruption and “toxicity” of the gathering. Her allegations violated the organization’s whistleblower policy and code of conduct, as well as her oath of office, according to the executive committee.
Archibald has claimed that the four employees who filed complaints against her wanted more than $1 million in payouts, which she refused.
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Since the controversy began in mid-month, the country chief has been banned from attending the annual general meeting, allowed to attend, had parts of his agenda removed and then reinstated.
Ahead of Tuesday’s big procession, a small rally was held outside the Vancouver Convention Center to support and condemn what she described as efforts to “silence her.”
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Donna Cole of the Squamish Nation drummed with the group, and having attended AFN meetings regularly in the past, said the meeting leader’s “diversionary tactics” did not surprise her.
“We’ve seen firsthand the misogyny, the cover-up, the lack of transparency, witnessed the misogyny, and now that we have our first female national boss, it feels a lot more personal,” she told Global News.
“So we can’t let her go through this alone, she needs support, we have to stand by her.”
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At the rally, Archibald reiterated her concerns, citing corruption, financial irregularities at the AFN, and a culture of “backroom deals.” She called on the chiefs and proxies attending the General Assembly – more than 440 in total – to “take back” the week’s meetings from the executive branch.
“I know the truth will get through to our bosses,” she said. “The truth will be told and the truth will be recognized by the chiefs and they will act in a good way that is in the best interests of the people, not in the best interests of the AFN executive regional chiefs.”
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Asked about the controversy, Gerald Antoine, AFN regional chief for the Northwest Territories, said it was important that everything was “put on the table” at the annual general meeting.
“We all need to give ourselves time and space to share — not only that, but to see what the slug is and how we can come together, understand the situation and plan steps forward,” he told Global News.
He stopped supporting Archibald’s calls for a financial audit, stating it was important “to evaluate what we’re doing”.
“I think this is a family reunion and a time to talk to each other in a good way.”
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More than 2,400 delegates have registered for the annual general assembly, held July 5-7 under the theme “Walking the Healing Path.”
In Tuesday’s opening speeches, speakers – including Archibald – focused on that message.
“I stand here today to welcome you and let you know that I love and care for each of you in this room,” she said. “This meeting is a historic meeting. I know that together we will master this well.”
Squamish Nation Coun. Khelsilem, who welcomed participants to the field, thanked Archibald and others for taking time out of their daily lives to work for future generations.
Archibald is expected to address delegates again on Tuesday.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8967792/afn-national-chief-annual-general-assembly/ ‘Truth will be told’: AFN national chief leads procession to annual general assembly