Former NSNWA president says harassment complaint against AFN vice-chief caused emotional, financial stress

Then NSNWA president Cheryl Maloney speaks during the welcoming ceremony of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry's community hearings in Membertou, N.S. on Oct. 29, 2017/Photo by Stephen Brake

The woman who filed a harassment and discrimination complaint against an Assembly of First Nations vice-chief says the ordeal has taken an emotional and financial toll on her.

“I have experienced considerable stress over the past three years,” Cheryl Maloney, the former president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said on Wed.

“Like any woman going through this type of situation, there is both emotional and financial losses,” she added.

Maloney filed a harassment and discrimination complaint against Morley Googoo, the AFN Vice-Chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum in Nov. 2017. Googoo was serving as the forum’s executive chair while Maloney served as the forum’s NSNWA liaison officer when she filed her complaint.

Cheryl Maloney, centre, testifies at the MMIWG Inquiry in Membertou, N.S. on Oct. 31, 2017/Photo by Stephen Brake

Maloney stepped down as NSNWA president around the same time she filed the complaint against the AFN vice-chief in Nov. 2017.

In her complaint, Maloney accused Googoo of harassing her and engaging in gender-based bullying against her and other women associated with the Tripartite Forum. She alleged the AFN vice-chief of:

  • Attempting to remove her and the NSNWA from the forum by trying to reorganize the forum in the fall of 2016
  • Damaging her reputation and ability to conduct her advocacy work by relaying negative information about her to other individuals including First Nation leaders
  • Calling her on Aug. 28, 2017 and subjecting her to threats and verbal abuse during the 20 minute phone call

In Sept. 2018, an independent investigator found Googoo’s efforts to reorganize the Tripartite Forum was in retaliation against Maloney and other women who he believed were behind calls for his resignation from the forum. The investigator also found that Googoo was aggressive and intimidating towards women associated with the forum.

In the report, the investigator concluded that it was more likely that not that Googoo made “belittling and unprofessional comments about Cheryl to the Chiefs and others in the native community.”

Ku’ku’kwes News reached out to AFN Vice-Chief Morley Googoo, the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs (ANSMC) for comment. The 13 Nova Scotia chiefs who form the ANSMC also serve as members of the Tripartite Forum’s executive and officials committees.

The Tripartite Forum spokesperson was on vacation and unavailable. The ANSMC co-chair, Membertou Chief Terrance Paul, was also on holidays and unavailable for comment. AFN Vice-Chief Googoo did not respond to Ku’ku’kwes News request for an interview.

Maloney pleased with AFN’s motion to suspend Morley Googoo as vice-chief

On Monday, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde sent a letter to Googoo informing him the assembly’s executive committee has proposed to suspend him from his position as vice-chief.

In the letter, Bellegarde wrote that Googoo’s “alleged harassment and direct discrimination against women in your region is potentially detrimental to our organization.” The vice-chief has until Aug. 10 to respond to the proposed motion.

A spokesperson for AFN said National Chief Bellegarde, who is currently taking part in the assembly’s annual general assembly in Fredericton, N.B., was unavailable for an interview on Wed.

According to the Tripartite Forum’s website, the AFN national chief is also an ex-officio member of the Tripartite Forum’s executive committee.

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

Maloney, who served as president of NSNWA from 2009-2017, said she is pleased with the AFN executive committee’s motion to consider suspending Googoo.

“If they want to reach out for more information, I will be happy to meet with them prior to their final decision,” Maloney said.

Maloney said she remains concerned about her safety and her family members since filing the complaint against the AFN vice-chief.

“In light of my years of experience working with families of missing and murdered (women and girls), I am well aware of what people are capable of,” she said.

Maloney explained her next steps in this matter is to seek legal counsel. She said five law firms have so far declined to represent her due to their conflicts with the federal and Nova Scotia governments and Indigenous partners.

“Lack of legal services is a problem for Indigenous women trying to speak up in this country,” Maloney said. “I don’t see enough safety or services for an Indigenous “Me Too” movement,” she added.

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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.