AFN suspends NS/NL Vice-Chief while it investigates harassment allegations

AFN VIce-Chief Morley Googoo/Photo by Stephen Brake

Morley Googoo has been suspended from his position as Assembly of First Nations Vice-Chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland while the AFN investigates allegations he harassed women while serving in his role as vice-chief.

AFN’s executive committee made the decision to suspend Googoo during a meeting in Vancouver Sept. 4.

According to an official statement from the AFN, Googoo is suspended with pay “pending the results of an investigation led by external legal counsel.”

“AFN will provide no further comment until the investigation is complete and a decision is made by the AFN Executive,” the statement reads.

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 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 committee.

Confidential report details harassment allegations against AFN Vice-Chief Googoo

On July 21, the assembly’s executive committee passed a motion to propose suspension of Googoo from his position as vice-chief. The motion was in reaction to news of a confidential report that concluded he engaged in harassing, bullying behaviour as well as gender-based discrimination against women while he served as the executive chair of the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum.

According to the confidential report, a complaint was made against Googoo by Cheryl Maloney, the former president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, while she served as the NSNWA’s liaison to the Tripartite Forum.

In her complaint, 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.”

Cheryl Maloney/Photo by Stephen Brake

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.”

The independent investigator, who completed her report in Sept. 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.”

The investigator also found Googoo’s proposed reorganization plan would have had indirect or adverse effects against women associated with the forum and constituted gender discrimination.

The investigator concluded that Googoo was aggressive and intimidating towards the women associated with the Tripartite Forum, especially during certain meetings that occurred in Nov. 2016. She wrote that Googoo’s behaviour caused women associated with the forum to fear for their jobs. One woman, she wrote, became physically ill and was diagnosed with situational depression.

The investigator wrote that based on statements Googoo made about Maloney during an investigation interview, it was likely he made belittling and unprofessional comments about Maloney to Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq chiefs and others in the Mi’kmaw community.

The investigator also wrote that Googoo’s phone call to Maloney amounted to bullying and harassment.

Maloney disappointed another investigation underway

When contacted for reaction to Googoo’s suspension with pay, Maloney said the AFN executive could have gone further other than launching another investigation.

“He’s done enough over the years on the public record that he should have been suspended years ago,” Maloney said in a phone interview Thursday.

“It’s disappointing that he, you know, that he’s still living his high lifestyle when Indigenous women are losing jobs and being bullied and going through mental anguish,” Maloney said.

“It’s important to remember that the investigation report wasn’t about me and Morley. The report was about the Tripartite Forum and the discrimination against the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association as a whole and trying to cut off funding and a voice of an Indigenous women’s group,” she added.

Cheryl Maloney, right, with her partner, Jay Morris/Photo by Stephen Brake

Maloney confirmed she has shared the three-page investigation report into Googoo’s conduct with the AFN. To date, she has not heard from the Tripartite Forum about her complaint since the independent investigator submitted her report to the forum.

In August, Maloney filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Googoo and members of the executive committee of the Tripartite Forum. Those members include AFN National Chief Bellegarde, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Norther Affairs Carolyn Bennett and the 13 Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw chiefs.

AFN Vice-Chief Googoo denies allegations against him

Googoo has denied the allegations made against him in the report.

“I continue to reject any suggestion that I have ever held a gender bias or acted to diminish anyone and in particular any organization working to support Indigenous people, Googoo wrote in an statement sent to Ku’ku’kwes News via email Thursday.

Morley Googoo in August 2017/Photo by Stephen Brake

“While it is disappointing a review is underway – I have and will continue to cooperate with the process,” Googoo wrote.

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.

His current term as AFN regional vice-chief expires in 2020.

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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.