Former national chief lands job with law firm AFN hired to lead class action against federal government


When it got here time for the Assembly of First Nations to rent a firm to lead a multi-billion greenback class-action lawsuit against the federal government, Perry Bellegarde would’ve doubtless had a say in that call. Now, that very same firm has hired the previous national chief as a particular adviser.

But even earlier than that point in 2020, Fasken, one among Canada’s main enterprise law corporations, labored for the AFN on difficult authorized points — and will finally be paid authorized charges for its work on the class action if a proposed $20-billion settlement is accredited.

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

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

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

Since 2019, Fasken legal professionals have performed two probes into the conduct of regional chiefs and defended the AFN against two lawsuits filed by former workers in provincial court docket.

The launch didn’t point out the firm’s long-standing relationship with the AFN due to the confidential nature of these preparations, a spokesperson for the firm stated in an emailed assertion equipped in response to an interview request.

“Our information is about Chief Bellegarde becoming a member of the firm and enhancing our crew,” the assertion stated.

“He has joined us as a result of Fasken is an incredible 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 hired Fasken to conduct a probe into harassment allegations against 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 fees his lawyer deemed “unfounded.”

In January 2020, the AFN filed the class action against Canada, looking 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 “turned involved that it could be sidelined in discussions associated to long-term reform and compensation” taking place within the Moushoom case, in accordance to an affidavit sworn this 12 months by AFN CEO Janice Ciavaglia.

A distinct firm represented the foyer group within the preliminary submitting, however the AFN swapped authorized corporations 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 to court docket information.

Under that deal, any authorized charges paid out to legal professionals could be negotiated between class counsel and Canada and would want to be accredited by the court docket. Canada would pay these charges individually, not out of the $20 billion, the information state.

The settlement is at the moment 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 appears on because the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society’s Cindy Blackstock speaks concerning the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on discrimination against First Nations youngsters 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 members within the AFN’s determination to sue.

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

 A public relations crew managing the announcement didn’t reply to CBC’s request to interview Bellegarde. In the Fasken launch, Bellegarde stated he appears ahead to the brand new position.

“I do know firsthand how necessary it’s for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to join and to perceive each other so as to advance human rights, in addition to financial prosperity and improvement,” he stated within the launch.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Bellegarde stated he anticipates sometimes working with company shoppers who’re on the alternative aspect of points with Indigenous teams.

Firm did preliminary probe into present national chief

Fasken’s work for the AFN continued into 2021 when it performed a preliminary probe into bullying allegations against 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 unique firm was hired to do.

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

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald on the annual common aggregation in Vancouver in July following the outcomes of a vote on an emergency decision that regarded to proceed her suspension. A complete of 252 First Nations chiefs and proxies voted against 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 similar lawyer is at the moment representing AFN in one other wrongful dismissal lawsuit the group’s former HR director Robin Henry filed in June 2022, in accordance to the Ontario Superior Court registry. 

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


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