Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs described as toxic workplace: leaked draft report

Staff at a Manitoba First Nations organization whose leader faces allegations of sexual assault described the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs as a “toxic” workplace, where bullying and belittling was widespread, according to a copy of a draft report obtained by CBC News.

The external review into the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which was prepared more than a year ago, was meant to explore the entirety of the organization’s structure. It found a pattern of unhealthy workplace behaviour that led to high staff turnover.

“The workplace culture is one that is described as toxic, lacking trust and respect, gossip mongering and backbiting,” the draft report said.

The draft report, authored by external consultant Kimberley Levasseur Puhach, was presented to the organization’s personnel and finance committee.

It suggests the First Nations advocacy organization had a “fear-based culture that has disengaged many of the staff.”

In March of this year, AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas was suspended after allegations he harassed and sexually assaulted a woman the organization identified as a senior staff member. Dumas has not been charged and the allegations have not been tested in court.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas was suspended in March after a sexual assault allegation came to light. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

In 2019, Dumas took a brief leave of absence after it was alleged he sent “inappropriate” messages and texts to a 22-year-old woman. 

He strongly denied accusations he pursued intimate relations with the woman but admitted his behaviour hadn’t always been the most professional. 

Bullying, belittling of staff 

The draft suggests the report was commissioned in response to growth within the organization, and leadership sought to find ways to focus its mandate and address challenges within its structure.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs confirmed that the committee received a confidential report that was prepared 14 months ago, but the document was not shared publicly and no one with access to the report was authorized to share it.

“This report relates to the internal organizational structures of the AMC. It is not an investigation and does not give findings as a result of any complaints or investigation,” the organization said in an emailed response.

“The AMC cannot confirm the authenticity of the document referenced in the media.”

The report says that interviews with staff suggested leaders cultivated an oppressive work environment that turned the “oppressed into oppressors.”

“Issues are noted as unprofessional, bullying, belittling, power and control mongering, sabotaging, blaming, micro-managing and demoralizing,” the draft report said.

One member of the executive team was described as “abrasive and disrespectful.”

It also said staff were covering up or withholding communication for fear they could lose their job or face retribution.

The assembly would not say whether any of the recommendations laid out in the draft report had been acted on.

“The AMC reiterates that all complaints made by employees of the AMC are taken seriously and are processed with due diligence,” its written statement said.

“The AMC will not provide any public statements regarding the nature of any complaints or allegations, as these matters are confidential.”

Staff ‘want to support’ Dumas: report

The report also notes that the majority of staff felt the work they were doing was important and fulfilling, but were concerned about the way the work was done.

It also noted that the “Grand Chief is well respected and the staff want to support him and contribute to the shared success of the AMC.”

After allegations against Dumas came to light earlier this year, the assembly said it was hiring an external third party to investigate, which it said would be “impartial, neutral and objective.” 

“The AMC has confirmed that the investigation is proceeding and shall be completed in the near future,” the organization said in response to questions about the status of the current investigation.

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