Manitoba’s most powerful chief accused of sexual assault
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/03/2022 (197 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A woman in a senior leadership position at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has accused Grand Chief Arlen Dumas — the most powerful Indigenous leader in the province — of sexual assault.
A formal criminal complaint has been filed with the Winnipeg Police Service sex crimes unit and the assembly’s executive council of chiefs was notified about the allegation Monday.
Police spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon confirmed Thursday that a complaint had been received and an incident number was generated.
McKinnon said police could not reveal information about the accuser or accused, or the details of the allegation.
The Free Press requested comment from Dumas Thursday.
In response, Natalie Ballentyne, chief of staff of the AMC, issued a short statement declining to comment.
“The grand chief’s office has not received any such information at this time and therefore cannot respond to this subject matter,” Ballentyne said.
The accuser sent an email to AMC’s executive council of chiefs, formally notifying the organization of the sexual assault allegation, on Monday.
The Free Press has obtained a copy of the email and isn’t naming the accuser because it involves an alleged sexual assault.
“I believe there should be urgency in this matter, as I suspect other women at AMC have or are experiencing the same thing.”
– Accuser’s email to AMC’s executive council of chiefs
The email claims the assembly has an “unhealthy” and “unsafe” work environment, with the accuser saying she had been subjected to “harassment, sexual harassment, and sexualized violence by Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.”
“I believe there should be urgency in this matter, as I suspect other women at AMC have or are experiencing the same thing,” the accuser wrote.
The woman said she had felt “harassed” by Dumas, “via phone, in person and virtually,” since her “second day of employment.”
“My personal experience of harassment and sexual misconduct has created an unsafe work environment where I have been subjected to gender-based violence,” the accuser wrote.
“My personal experience of harassment and sexual misconduct has created an unsafe work environment where I have been subjected to gender-based violence.”
– Accuser’s email to AMC’s executive council of chiefs
“I am unable to provide more details to this issue, as a formal complaint has been filed with the Winnipeg Police Service sex crimes unit, but I can confirm from my experience, I was sexually assaulted.”
The accuser ended the email by saying she is willing to work with AMC’s executive council of chiefs and human resources “in any required followup.”
The Free Press also requested comment from the executive council of chiefs on Thursday.
The only response was the short, written statement from Ballentyne on behalf of the “grand chief’s office.”
A source told the Free Press the assembly’s executive council of chiefs will hold an emergency meeting Friday to respond to the sexual assault allegation.
This isn’t the first time Dumas has been accused of misconduct, although it is the first time a woman has made allegations involving sexual violence.
In 2019, Bethany Maytwayashing accused Dumas of sending her inappropriate texts and social media messages that made her feel “really creeped out.”
Maytwayashing was 22 at the time; Dumas was in his mid-40s.
Dumas denied sending inappropriate messages to Maytwayashing, claiming someone had impersonated him “for political or other purposes.”
He did admit to being in contact with Maytwayashing to provide “advice and guidance on her path forward.”
Other women then stepped forward with claims that Dumas had made comments that left them feeling uncomfortable; one woman reported a consensual sexual encounter that she believed was inappropriate of a top leader.
Dumas was elected grand chief in 2017.
Following Maytwayashing’s allegations, he took a two-week leave of absence to “heal,” and apologized for an “open and informal communication style” that he feared had unintentionally made some women uncomfortable.
“I did not pursue a relationship of an intimate nature with this woman,” Dumas wrote.
At the time, the assembly announced it would hire a third party to investigate the matter.
But Maytwayashing told the Free Press in December 2021 that she believed the incident had been swept under the rug by AMC.
Dumas was re-elected to a second term as grand chief in July 2021.
AMC declined a past interview request from the Free Press seeking an update on the findings of the third-party probe — including whether Dumas had been sanctioned.
— with files from Erik Pindera
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Thursday, March 17, 2022 7:34 PM CDT: fixes typo
Updated on Friday, March 18, 2022 9:06 AM CDT: Adds credit
Updated on Friday, March 18, 2022 11:09 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Maytwayashing