Whatever her faults — and she has several, as I’ve already shown — RoseAnne Archibald still has to be admired for being such a determined fighter.
She is now taking on the sclerotic but powerful old-boys’ network at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), a generously government-funded organization that she has claimed is full of financial and other corruption since the beginning of her election as its national chief in 2021.
In a short Facebook video posted Monday evening that can be viewed here, Archibald argued that AFN chiefs “ignored our sacred ways” on June 28 when they voted to oust her as national chief.
In the video, Archibald appealed to her supporters to contact their respective chiefs and councils to demand her reinstatement as national chief and to advocate for a forensic audit of AFN finances under her predecessors, something she has called for on several occasions.
“I don’t want to be reinstated because of my ego. I want to be reinstated because I have a sacred responsibility that I have to fulfil,” Archibald said in the video recorded inside her vehicle in Vancouver.
She said AFN chiefs carried out “one of the most violent acts against an Indigenous, First Nation women leader ever.”
Archibald’s claims of “sacred responsibility” and “violent acts” are hard to take seriously given the profane way — at least from an ancient indigenous inter-group conflict resolution perspective that many indigenous activists regularly still give lip or ceremonial service to — she has attacked her ideological and political foes in such a public and vitriolic way.
She was ousted last week at a hastily convened virtual Zoom assembly attended by only 231 delegates, less than half the 634 Indian Bands eligible to vote. It saw 163 people vote to adopt a non-confidence motion, 62 opposed and six abstentions.
In short, only 26% of eligible voters supported her ouster.
The Zoom meeting was called to address the findings of an investigation into five workplace misconduct complaints filed last year, which found Archibald harassed two staffers and retaliated against all five.
This is Archibald’s second removal from office. She was first suspended as national chief on June 17, 2022 over the same charges but before an investigation of their veracity had been undertaken.
But she claimed, rightly it turned out, at that time, the suspension was part of what she called an attempted coup in retaliation for her efforts to explore alleged corruption within the AFN, a credible charge if there ever was one.
“I am relentless in my pursuit of truth. Let me assure you that the struggle for transparency, accountability and truth is an honourable and worthy cause,” Chief Archibald told the assembled delegates ahead of a vote on her suspension.
An emergency resolution calling on the chiefs to uphold the suspension was introduced by the executive at last year’s AFN General Assembly. But Chief Archibald’s supporters fiercely defended her in the debate before the vote, asserting that the members of the executive did not have the authority to suspend an elected national chief.
The end result was that the resolution was roundly rejected by the chiefs on July 5, 2022 with only 44 voting in support of it, 252 voting against and 26 abstentions.
In short, 78% voted to retain her as national chief.
Her removal last week may yet again be a temporary one because the AFN is set to hold its 44th Annual General Assembly between July 10-13 in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she and her supporters will again raise bloody hell to get her reinstated.
It needs to be noted that Archibald has made seemingly credible allegations of AFN corruption in the past.
And regardless of whether she is a loose cannon or not, if yet another reinstatement helps reveal, if not eliminate, the systemic rot in the AFN, she deserves to prevail again.
Hymie Rubenstein is editor of The REAL Indigenous Issues newsletter and a retired professor of anthropology, the University of Manitoba