AFN national Chief Perry Bellegarde issues proposal letter to suspend regional Chief Morley Googoo

AFN national Chief Perry Bellegarde has issued a letter to regional Chief Morley Googoo (pictured) proposing a suspension after allegations of harassment were levelled against the regional leader. David Squires/Global News

Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Morley Googoo will have 20 days to respond to a letter from the assembly’s executive committee, which passed a motion this week to propose a suspension of the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland AFN representative in response to allegations of harassment and gender-based bullying.

The letter was issued by Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national Chief Perry Bellegarde on Sunday, July 21.

On Tuesday, Bellegarde told media at AFN’s annual general meeting in Fredericton that the assembly has a zero tolerance policy towards harassment.

“We made the decision when information comes to our table and we followed that and we’re going to keep encouraging that to happen,” Bellegarde said.

“We will not tolerate any bullying, we will not tolerate any harassment. We will not tolerate… any discrimination.”

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READ MORE: Chief Googoo denies independent report alleging he bullied women in the workplace

In earlier reports, it was revealed that complaints had been made to the federal government by Cheryl Maloney, past president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWA), who claimed Googoo had bullied her in the workplace and made her fearful for her position. Maloney also alleged she was harassed over the phone during a 20-minute conversation with Googoo back in 2017.

At a press conference in Halifax on Monday, Googoo denied he had been abusive towards women in the workplace.

“I have to deny any gender bias,” said Googoo. “I have women all working for me, and they all can tell you that I allow empowerment and I allow them to lead. The same with my community when I was chief for 19 years — I had over 70 per cent of my staff being women.”

Following Maloney’s complaints, the federal, provincial and Indigenous governments, under the Tripartite Forum, called for an internal investigation by an independent lawyer.

A report on the investigation was submitted to the Tripartite Forum in September 2018 after the lawyer had conducted extensive interviews and reviewed emails, texts and personal and organization notes and social media before concluding that Googoo’s behaviour had been “aggressive” towards some of the women and that the behaviour constituted “bullying.”

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As part of the report, the lawyer found that other women with the NSNWA had felt bullied and intimidated by Googoo.

Maloney said the motion to suspend Googoo as the AFN regional chief has been a long time coming and credits reports in the media for putting pressure on the governments to act. She says the experience has been an “eye-opener” and that after spending decades advocating for women’s rights and, in particular, Indigenous women, she felt no support from the government during this ordeal.

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“I’ve been waiting three years plus for his (Googoo’s) behaviour to be addressed, and that’s really disheartening because lives have been destroyed, careers have been destroyed and women have suffered irreparable harm already,”  said Maloney.

“I think something else has to be done. We need a better system in place than what’s there now to protect women.”

Googoo confirmed Monday that he had reached out to Maloney to try and repair the damaged relationship, which Maloney brushed aside, saying it’s not up to Googoo to respond and suggesting that because the independent report has been filed, it’s now up to the government to respond.

Maloney says the letter proposing Googoo’s suspension doesn’t bring solace but that she wants the governments and AFN to change the way they handle these complaints.

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“This case is an eye-opener in terms of the failure of the system,” said Maloney. “We’re not doing enough in this country and in this province and in the Indigenous community to protect our women and protect their livelihoods and protect their reputations and protects their workspaces.”

Googoo did not immediately respond to request for comment from Global News.

With files from Silas Brown

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