The former president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association is taking her harassment and discrimination complaints against a regional vice-chief for the Assembly of First Nations to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Cheryl Maloney, who stepped down as NSNWA president in 2017, filed her complaint against AFN Vice-Chief Morley Googoo on Aug. 6. In her complaint, Maloney alleged Googoo harassed her and discriminated against her and other women while he served as the executive chair of the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum.
Maloney has also filed separate complaints against the members of the executive committee with the Tripartite Forum. They include Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and the 13 Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
“This was a case that everyone knew about and that all levels of government ignored it for a number of years,” Maloney said on Friday. “I’m looking at the broader issues of Indigenous women and how impossible it is for them to get remedy and protection,” she added.
A spokesperson with the Canadian Human Rights Commission said the commission cannot confirm if a complaint has been received or not nor can the CHRC comment on individual cases.
Tripartite Forum established in 1997
The Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum was established in 1997 as a place where Mi’kmaq could meet with federal and provincial governments to discuss and resolve issues of mutual concern.
The forum has set up seven working committees where governmental and Mi’kmaw representatives can meet and discuss issues and initiatives in areas of culture and heritage, sport and recreation, economic development, education, justice and social.
The forum’s activities are governed by four other committees which include the executive, officials, steering and project fund. The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, the Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq and the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association have representatives serving on the officials committee.
According to the Tripartite Forum’s 2013-2014 annual report, it received $1.39-million in funding from the federal and Nova Scotia governments. The executive chair was paid approximately $9,000 during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Investigation conducted into Googoo’s behaviour towards Maloney, NSNWA
Maloney’s complaint to the CHRC follows a seven-month independent investigation that was conducted into Maloney’s allegations that Googoo, harassed her and engaged in gender-based discrimination against her and other women associated with the Tripartite Forum.
According to to the confidential report, which was obtained by Ku’ku’kwes News, Maloney accused Googoo of attempting to remove her and the NSNWA from the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum by trying to force a reorganization of the forum in the fall of 2016. She accused Googoo of damaging her reputation by relaying negative information about her to the First Nation leaders who hold seats on the forum’s executive and officials committees.
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.”
In the report, which was submitted to the Tripartite Forum in Sept. 2018, the investigator 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.”
The investigator also found Googoo’s proposed reorganization plan “constituted indirect or ‘adverse effects’ discrimination against women associated with the Forum.”
Maloney said she has not been contacted by anyone with the Tripartite Forum since the independent investigator submitted her findings. She said the investigator informed her in Nov. 2018 that she would be hearing from the forum on next steps.
“I waited and waited and waited and it’s been nothing. Dead silence,” Maloney said.
On July 22, AFN National Chief Bellegarde sent a letter to Googoo informing him that the assembly’s executive committee passed a motion to suspend him from his position as vice-chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. According to the letter, the motion was in reaction to news of the Tripartite Forum’s independent investigation into his conduct.
Googoo has until Aug. 11 to respond before the AFN moves forward to consider suspending him.
AFN Vice-Chief denies Maloney’s allegations
Ku’ku’kwes News reached out the individuals named in the Maloney’s complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission for comment.
In a text message, AFN Vice-Chief Morley Googoo denied Maloney’s allegations.
“I have never held a gender bias in the workplace or otherwise nor do I believe that I have acted aggressively or unfairly toward my co-workers or employees,” Googoo wrote.
Vice-Chief Googoo said he has cooperated with the Tripartite Forum’s internal review into the allegations against him, including reaching “out to the concerned parties.”
“I have made myself available for traditional and non-traditional healing to address any misunderstandings,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for the Assembly of First Nations declined to comment regarding National Chief Bellegarde being named in Maloney’s complaints to the CHRC.
Paqtnkek Mi’kmaq Nation Chief Paul Prosper, who speaks on behalf of the 13 Nova Scotia Chiefs with the Tripartite Forum, wrote in an email that he didn’t want to comment on Maloney’s complaint now “that the nature of this matter involves legal issues currently under a legal process.”
No one with the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs responded to Ku’ku’kwes News’s request for a comment.
David Jackson, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, wrote in an email that “once the allegations against regional Chief Morley Googoo were made by Ms. Maloney to the Tripartite Forum, Nova Scotia worked with her employer, Mi’kmaq community leaders and federal partners to ensure the claims were taken seriously.”
“Nova Scotia took this issue very seriously to ensure it was considered in the context of its role as a member of the Tripartite Forum. The forum’s three partners are working together to ensure the independent report’s recommendations are addressed, which include workplace harassment policies and training,” Jackson wrote on behalf of Premier McNeil.
“That’s the first response I’ve heard,” Maloney said in reaction to the Nova Scotia government’s comment on the matter.
“Why would they not officially respond to the investigation and my claims and then address the damage that was done by (Morley Googoo) and the other women at the forum,” she said.
“Let the (CHRC) investigate and see if they did everything the should have. I don’t think they did. They didn’t protect us, protect me and the other women of forum,” Maloney said.