Former NSNWA President files human rights complaint against NS Aboriginal Affairs Minister

Former NSNWA president Cheryl Maloney, right, has filed a human rights complaint against Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil/Photos by Stephen Brake

The former president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association has filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission against Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, who is also the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

Cheryl Maloney says her complaint against Premier McNeil is related to other complaints she has already filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against individual members of the executive committee of the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum. McNeil sits on that committee as the Nova Scotia Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.

“I didn’t list the premier but the Minister of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs who happens to be the premier,” Maloney explained.

“He wasn’t there in the Tripartite (Forum) in his role as premier. He was there in his role as Minister of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs,” she said.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil at Mikmaq Treay Day in Halifax Oct. 1, 2019./Photo by Stephen Brake

The other members of the Tripartite Forum’s executive committee who are a part of Maloney’s initial complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission include former committee chair Morley Googoo, the 13 Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw chiefs, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Development Carolyn Bennett and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

Maloney alleges that the Tripartite Forum’s executive committee members discriminated against her on the basis of gender and employment while she served on the forum’s officials committee as president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. She was also the NSNWA’s Tripartite Coordinator.

Maloney’s complaints are tied to an initial Nov. 2017 complaint she made to the Tripartite Forum against Googoo, who served as the forum’s executive chair in his role as AFN Regional Vice-Chief.

Maloney stepped down as president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association shortly after she filed her complaint against Googoo with the Tripartite Forum.

Investigation found Googoo harassed, bullied Maloney

The Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Tripartite Forum was established in 1997 as a way for Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq to meet and work with representatives of the provincial and federal governments to resolve issues of mutual concern. The formation of the Tripartite Forum was a recommendation made by the 1989 Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr. Prosecution.

In her complaint to the Tripartite Forum, Maloney accused Googoo of harassment, bullying and discrimination against her. Her complaint resulted in an investigator being appointed in Feb. 2018 to look into the details of her complaint and interview witnesses.

Morley Googoo in August 2017/Photo by Stephen Brake

The investigator’s report, which was obtained by Ku’ku’kwes News, concluded that Googoo had bullied and harassed Maloney and other women associated with the Tripartite Forum. The investigator also found that Googoo’s attempts to reorganize the Tripartite Forum by removing the NSNWA would have discriminated against Indigenous women in general.

Googoo resigned as the Tripartite Forum’s executive chair before the investigation report was completed in Sept. 2018.

Googoo was suspended with pay from his position as AFN Vice-Chief in July shortly after the Tripartite Forum’s investigation report was leaked to CBC Indigenous. The AFN executive committee also launched its own internal investigation into Googoo’s conduct.

The Mi’kmaw chiefs from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland voted to remove Googoo as their AFN regional vice-chief representative on Oct. 11.

Maloney still waiting for responses from Tripartite, AFN

Maloney says she hasn’t been contacted by anyone with the Tripartite Forum or the AFN regarding their completed investigations into Googoo’s conduct.

“I’m waiting for the AFN to reach out to me. I still haven’t had the Tripartite Forum reach out to me,” Maloney said.

Maloney said there needs to be a better complaint system in place in which Indigenous women like her aren’t put at risk.

Cheryl Maloney/Photo by Stephen Brake

“If the investigation is going to go on for years and (there is) no real recourse, that keeps us in this toxic environment and that has long term impact and effect on women, their mental health, their income. It’s not a safe workplace,” Maloney explained.

“There needs to be some definite rules and guidelines and processes in place so that all women that want to report aren’t going through years of unknowns or hunting down, like where’s the investigation, where’s the report, where’s the results, you know, and getting answers back,” she said.

AFN spokesman Don Kelly said the assembly’s internal investigation report into Googoo’s conduct is confidential and the only parties that will receive it include members AFN executive committee and the Mi’kmaw chiefs in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland region.

David Jackson, a spokesman for Nova Scotia Premier McNeil, said the premier wasn’t available to provide a direct comment on Maloney’s complaint.

Instead, Jackson referred to a previous statement that was issued in Aug. which stated the province worked with Maloney’s “employer, Mi’kmaq community leaders and federal partners to ensure the claims were taken seriously.”

A spokesman for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission said the commission cannot confirm or deny that any complaint has been filed until a decision has been made to send the complaint to a board of inquiry.

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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.