Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs will remove Arlen Dumas as leader after investigation finds sexual harassment

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says a meeting will be held soon to officially remove Arlen Dumas from the role of grand chief, after an independent investigation has found he engaged in workplace sexual harassment.

A staff member lodged a workplace misconduct complaint against Dumas in March. Dumas was suspended and a third-party legal firm was tasked with the investigation.

A final report was reviewed by the executive council Wednesday evening, the assembly said in a news release. The contents are being kept confidential out of respect for the sensitive nature of the investigation, the AMC said.

A special meeting is to be held to remove Dumas from the role through a vote of non-confidence under the assembly’s constitution. Until then, he remains suspended without pay, the Thursday news release said.

Shauna Fontaine, who earlier this month told CBC News she was the woman who filed the complaint against Dumas, also accused him of sexual assault.

Fontaine said she was motivated to publicly reveal her identity after over 200 people signed an open letter calling for an independent inquiry into Dumas.

Winnipeg police previously said an incident number for a complaint was generated but they could not confirm the parties involved.

On Thursday, Fontaine said she feels satisfied the workplace investigation considered the evidence and validated her complaint, though overall she has mixed emotions.

“Sexual harassment, you know, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “My disclosing that I was sexually assaulted, they’re not even making mention to that, perhaps because it’s a criminal matter.”

Shauna Fontaine identified herself earlier this month as the woman who filed a complaint against Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Fontaine said she has been living with trauma and fear and experienced other negative outcomes as a result of her experience. 

“When we go into work we should feel safe, especially as an Indigenous woman working in an Indigenous environment,” said Fontaine. “At the same time I feel very supported and loved by members of the community who’ve reached out to me after I went public with my name. I felt believed.”

Fontaine said she hasn’t received any direct communication from AMC or an apology.

“A big part of accountability is making amends, and my employer, while they’ve done this investigation, are now seeing the evidence that illustrates he was in the wrong and that I was telling the truth, that I did not lie,” she said.

“An apology to me for my experience, from the chiefs or from someone within AMC, would really mean a lot to me as a survivor.”

Dumas has not been charged and none of the allegations have been tested in court.

CBC News has requested comment from Dumas several times since March but has not received a response.

Dumas became grand chief in 2017 and was re-elected in 2021. Before that, he was the chief of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, in northwestern Manitoba, for more than a decade.

Chief Cornell McLean of Lake Manitoba First Nation was tapped to head the assembly on an interim basis in April. Eric Redhead, chief of the Shamattawa First Nation, filled the role when Dumas was initially suspended but he stepped down soon after, citing time constraints and commitments.

The assembly said it is committed to reflecting on and reviewing its workplace policies and practices to ensure it fosters a culture of support and respect.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents 62 First Nations in the province, accounting for more than 151,000 people.