Former nationwide chief lands job with regulation agency AFN employed to steer class motion towards federal authorities

When it got here time for the Meeting of First Nations to rent a agency to steer a multi-billion greenback class-action lawsuit towards the federal authorities, Perry Bellegarde would’ve seemingly had a say in that call. Now, that very same agency has employed the previous nationwide chief as a particular adviser.

However even earlier than that point in 2020, Fasken, one among Canada’s main enterprise regulation companies, labored for the AFN on difficult authorized points — and will finally be paid authorized charges for its work on the category motion if a proposed $20-billion settlement is authorized.

“A couple of of our colleagues have recognized Chief Bellegarde for years,” mentioned Martin Denyes, Fasken’s regional managing associate for Ontario, in a Monday information launch asserting Bellegarde’s hiring.

“Extra of us have come to know him over the previous few months as we’ve got mentioned the chances round this chance. You can not assist however broaden your world view after dialog with Perry.”

The AFN has employed Fasken, which employs greater than 800 attorneys countrywide and internationally, as exterior counsel to assist navigate each high-stakes and low-profile conditions.

Since 2019, Fasken attorneys have performed two probes into the conduct of regional chiefs and defended the AFN towards two lawsuits filed by former workers in provincial courtroom.

The discharge didn’t point out the agency’s long-standing relationship with the AFN as a result of confidential nature of these preparations, a spokesperson for the agency mentioned in an emailed assertion provided in response to an interview request.

“Our information is about Chief Bellegarde becoming a member of the agency and enhancing our staff,” the assertion mentioned.

“He has joined us as a result of Fasken is an amazing platform on which he can proceed his life’s work, proceed to have interaction in significant conversations across the Indigenous expertise and produce about transformational change.”

Fasken requested to deal with harassment probe

In 2019, the AFN employed Fasken to conduct a probe into harassment allegations towards Morley Googoo, the AFN regional chief for Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, who had been suspended on the time. 

Chiefs in Googoo’s area voted to take away him from the put up a couple of months later, a day after Fasken investigators accomplished their report. Googoo would finally stand trial and be discovered not responsible on intercourse assault prices his lawyer deemed “unfounded.”

In January 2020, the AFN filed the category motion towards Canada, searching for compensation for victims of the underfunded First Nations child-welfare system. Xavier Moushoom had filed an analogous lawsuit in 2019.

The AFN determined to sue after the group “grew to become involved that it could be sidelined in discussions associated to long-term reform and compensation” taking place within the Moushoom case, in accordance with an affidavit sworn this yr by AFN CEO Janice Ciavaglia.

A unique agency represented the foyer group within the preliminary submitting, however the AFN swapped authorized companies in August 2020. Fasken has represented the AFN within the case since then, together with in confidential talks that led to the proposed settlement, in accordance with courtroom information.

Below that deal, any authorized charges paid out to attorneys could be negotiated between class counsel and Canada and would have to be authorized by the courtroom. Canada would pay these charges individually, not out of the $20 billion, the information state.

The settlement is at present on maintain, nevertheless, after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal final week refused to declare that the deal would fulfill the tribunal’s pre-existing compensation order from 2019.

Bellegarde seems to be on because the First Nations Little one and Household Caring Society’s Cindy Blackstock speaks in regards to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on discrimination towards First Nations kids in care, throughout a information convention in Ottawa, in 2016. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ciavaglia’s affidavit included a draft copy of an AFN government committee movement authorizing the lawsuit’s submitting in 2020, which lists Bellegarde amongst a number of different individuals within the AFN’s resolution to sue.

Bellegarde, a long-serving First Nations political chief from Little Black Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan, was elected to 2 consecutive phrases as AFN nationwide chief between 2014 and 2021.

 A public relations staff managing the announcement didn’t reply to CBC’s request to interview Bellegarde. Within the Fasken launch, Bellegarde mentioned he seems to be ahead to the brand new function.

“I do know firsthand how necessary it’s for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to attach and to grasp each other with a purpose to advance human rights, in addition to financial prosperity and improvement,” he mentioned within the launch.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Bellegarde mentioned he anticipates sometimes working with company purchasers who’re on the other facet of points with Indigenous teams.

Agency did preliminary probe into present nationwide chief

Fasken’s work for the AFN continued into 2021 when it performed a preliminary probe into bullying allegations towards RoseAnne Archibald, who was then the regional chief for Ontario.

The probe discovered the “allegations and proof to be credible,” and the AFN government ordered a full investigation, which a distinct agency was employed to do.

On the time, Archibald, who’s now nationwide chief, claimed the allegations had been a reprisal. She had been requesting a assessment of AFN’s monetary insurance policies and practices, claiming to have paperwork that confirmed “monetary improprieties” inside the AFN.

Meeting of First Nations Nationwide Chief RoseAnne Archibald on the annual basic meeting in Vancouver in July following the outcomes of a vote on an emergency decision that seemed to proceed her suspension. A complete of 252 First Nations chiefs and proxies voted towards the decision, whereas solely 44 voted in favour. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

A Fasken lawyer additionally represented AFN as a defendant in a $100,000 wrongful dismissal swimsuit filed by former communications officer Gail Boyd in December 2020. The case was dismissed on consent in June 2021.

The identical lawyer is at present representing AFN in one other wrongful dismissal lawsuit the group’s former HR director Robin Henry filed in June 2022, in accordance with the Ontario Superior Court docket registry. 

This one seeks $200,000 in damages and has not been examined in courtroom.

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