AFN executive considers suspending NS/NL Vice-Chief Morley Googoo following harassment allegations

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegard, left, and Vice-Chief Morley Googoo take part in a Peace and Friendship gathering between Mi'kmaq and Acadians in Aug. 2017/Photo by Stephen Brake

The executive committee of the Assembly of First Nations has proposed to suspend Morley Googoo from his position as AFN Vice-Chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In a letter dated July 22, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde informed Googoo that the AFN’s executive committee met on July 21 and passed a motion to suspend him as vice-chief.

In his letter to Googoo, Bellegarde wrote, “This motion is in response to allegations of harassment by yourself towards women in your region. The AFN is committed to ensuring a workplace that is free from harassment and discrimination.”

“It is the view of the AFN Executive Committee, acting in our capacity as the NIB board, that your alleged harassment and direct discrimination against women in your region is potentially detrimental to our organization,” Bellegarde stated.

AFN NS/NL Vice-Chief Morley Googoo, left, and AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde/Photo by Stephen Brake

According to the letter, Googoo has until Aug. 10 to respond to the proposed suspension. If the vice-chief does not respond by then, the executive will deliberate regarding the proposed suspension. If he does submit a written submission, the executive will consider the submission in arriving at a final decision regarding the proposed suspension.

The AFN executive committee consists of National Chief Bellegarde and the ten vice-chiefs who represent the Canadian provinces and territories. Googoo is a member of the executive.

AFN National Chief Bellegarde was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday. AFN Vice-Chief Googoo did not respond to a request for an interview.

First Nation leaders in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland elect a vice-chief to represent them at the Assembly of First Nations every three years.

Googoo was first elected as AFN Vice-Chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in 2011. He was subsequently re-elected in 2014 and 2017.

Googoo’s current term as vice-chief expires in 2020.

Former NSNWA president accuses AFN Vice-Chief of harassment, bullying

The move by the AFN executive committee to consider suspending Googoo follows a report that was prepared for the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum regarding allegations of harassment and discrimination committed by Googoo.

The harassment and discrimination complaint against Googoo was filed by Cheryl Maloney, the past president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWA).

According to its website, the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum was set up in 1997 as a part of “a partnership between the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq, the Province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada, to strengthen relationships and to resolve issues of mutual concern affecting Mi’kmaw communities.”

The Tripartite Forum consists of First Nation leaders, members of the Mi’kmaw community in Nova Scotia and representatives of the Nova Scotia and federal governments.

Googoo served as the forum’s executive chair while Maloney served as the forum’s NSNWA liaison officer during the time period of the complaint.

According to the confidential report, which was obtained by Ku’ku’kwes News, Maloney alleged Googoo harassed her and engaged in gender-based bullying against her and other women associated with the Tripartite Forum.

In the report, Maloney accused Googoo of attempting to remove her and the NSNWA by trying to force a reorganization of the Tripartite Forum in the fall of 2016. She accused Googoo of damaging her “reputation and ability to engage in her advocacy work by maliciously relaying negative information about her, particularly to the Chiefs.”

Maloney also alleged Googoo called her on Aug. 28, 2017 and “subjected her to threats and verbal abuse for a period of over 20 minutes.”

Former NSNWA president Cheryl Maloney filed a complaint against Morley Googoo for harassment, bullying/Photo by Stephen Brake

The independent investigator, who filed her report on Sept. 18, 2018, found that Googoo’s proposed plan to reorganize the Tripartite Forum “was motivated by a desire to retaliate against certain women, including Cheryl, whom he believed were behind calls for his resignation as Executive Chair.”

“Morley’s attempts to eliminate Cheryl’s position and remove Native Women’s from the Forum constituted a direct discrimination against both Cheryl and Native Women’s,” the investigator wrote.

The investigator also found Googoo’s proposed reorganization plan “constituted indirect or ‘adverse effects’ discrimination against women associated with the Forum.”

“Morley’s restructuring proposal, while not, explicitly targeting women, would only have a negative impact on the livelihoods of a historically disadvantaged group, native women. This constitutes gender discrimination,” the investigator concluded.

The investigator found that Googoo was aggressive and intimidating towards the women associated with the Tripartite Forum.

“Morley’s conduct at certain meetings, particularly those occurring in November 2016, caused females associated with the Forum to feel fearful for their jobs and intimidated by his manner,” the investigator wrote. “At least one female became physically ill and was diagnosed with situational depression as a result,” she wrote.

The Assembly of First Nations executive committee is considering suspending NS/NL Vice-Chief Morley Googoo/Photo by Stephen Brake

The investigator also found that “based on statements Morley made about Cheryl during the investigation interview, it is more likely than not that he made similar belittling and unprofessional comments about Cheryl to the Chiefs and others in the native community.”

“Morley also agreed that he called Cheryl on August 28, 2017, was angry and made several of the statements Cheryl alleged. Morley’s conduct in these instances amounted to bullying and harassment of Cheryl,” the investigator wrote.

Maloney was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday. However, she did post a copy of the AFN letter to Googoo on Facebook.

A spokesperson with the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum did not respond to a request for comment on the findings into Maloney’s complaint against Googoo.

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About Maureen Googoo 270 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.