Manitoba Chiefs Assembly Votes to Remove Suspended Grand Chief Arlen Dumas | TNZT News

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The Manitoba Chiefs Assembly has voted to remove suspended Grand Chief Arlen Dumas and publicly apologized to the two women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.

At a special general meeting held in Winnipeg Friday, dozens of Manitoba leaders held a no-confidence vote to officially remove Dumas from office, following allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted an employee.

Interim Grand Chief Cornell McLean told TNZT News that 30 voted for the immediate removal of the Grand Chief and 13 against.

“On behalf of the meeting, we must… [apologize]because we need to protect them from things like this,” McLean said.

Dumas was suspended in March pending an investigation into allegations that he engaged in sexual harassment at work and sexually assaulted an employee, who was anonymous at the time. The employee has reported the matter to the police, but no charges have been filed.

McLean apologized to Shauna Fontaine, who… came out publicly in June as the employee who filed the complaint, and expressed her disappointment at the response of the AMC and the police to her report.

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He also apologized to Bethany Maytwayashing, who accused Dumas of sending her inappropriate text messages in 2019.

“When you’re a leader in your community, there’s no way you can abuse your power or trust,” McLean said.

In a written statement to TNZT News, Fontaine expressed some relief at Dumas’ immediate removal, but said she is “particularly saddened and traumatized about this whole experience.”

The statement renews its call for more transparent, trauma-informed research and resolution processes within the AMC.

In response to Fontaine’s allegations, the meeting ordered a third-party investigation, which revealed that Dumas had engaged in sexual harassment at work.

Fontaine initially expressed concern over the AMC’s handling of her allegations in June, via an open letter signed by 200 supporters. The letter called for an independent investigation into the matter.

“It is time for change, and with this result I can only hope that the change will happen,” Fontaine said.

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Earlier this week, Dumas announced that he would seek trauma-based treatment to “begin healing not only from the events of the past five months, but from a lifetime of trauma,” he said in a press release.

He did not appear at the special general meeting on Friday, despite the AMC asking his lawyers to attend virtually. He has previously denied the allegations.

Dumas was first elected head of the AMC in 2017 and was re-elected last summer.

In a press release emailed after the vote, the assembly said a by-election will be held on October 19 to choose a replacement. Until then, McLean will continue as acting head chef.

‘A message of hope’

Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, an expert on gender-based violence, says the vote to impeach Dumas is “a message of hope” that the wind is turning when it comes to how allegations are handled within political systems.

“There has been a small shift,” she said, adding that Friday’s decision was a long time coming.

Anderson-Pyrz says he looks back to when Maytwayashing’s allegations first emerged and believes the AMC should have immediately called for an independent third-party investigation rather than dealing with the matter internally.

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“In my opinion, the victim was victimized again by the way the whole process was handled,” she said.

“Once the investigation is done, there must be procedures in place to, you know, hold the person accountable who violated those policies and procedures. And they must be acted upon immediately as well.”

Had Dumas stayed hd, it would have “sent a heartbreaking message to Indigenous women across the country,” Anderson-Pyrz said. “It would, you know, have diminished any hope… especially for those victims of gender-based violence who are now suffering and have found their voice and sought help.”

Anderson-Pyrz says more Indigenous women should be given opportunities to take on political roles, including the provision of training and other support resources.

Patriarchy and misogyny remain “very thick” within political structures today, she said: “We are still trying to break those glass ceilings.”

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