An aboriginal leader in Manitoba was removed from office on Friday after being accused of sexual harassment.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs voted to remove Arlen Dumas as Grand Chief during a closed meeting in Winnipeg. Dumas had previously been suspended without pay after a staff member filed a misconduct complaint against him in May.
“There are policies that need to be put in place and women that need to be protected,” Acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean said following the vote of no confidence between the chiefs, which passed by a margin of 30. against 13.
“When you are a leader in your community, you cannot (mis)use your power of trust in any way.”
Dumas had said the accusation was unfounded and earlier this week issued a press release saying he was seeking treatment for trauma.
He did not attend Friday’s meeting and attempts to reach him by The Canadian Press were unsuccessful. An automated response from his email account said he was out of province.
“There were three requests to his attorney and he never responded at all,” McLean said.
The harassment complaint was investigated by an independent investigation which found that Dumas had engaged in sexual harassment at work.
It was not the first time Dumas had faced a complaint. In 2019, he temporarily quit his job after an Indigenous woman said he tried to pursue a relationship with her using a fake social media identity.
McLean apologized to the two women on Friday on behalf of the congregation. Her comments were met with applause by a group of Indigenous women gathered outside the closed-door meeting.
“It’s a big step for us in terms of the chiefs. They’re ready to support us now,” said Lillian Cook of Sagkeeng First Nation northeast of Winnipeg.
“There’s so much abuse, harassment…women are afraid to speak up.”
Dumas was first elected Grand Chief in 2017 and was re-elected last year.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents 62 First Nations in the province.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 5, 2022
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