WINNIPEG — An Indigenous leader in Manitoba was removed from his job Friday after being accused of sexual harassment.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs voted to drop Arlen Dumas as grand chief during a closed-door meeting in Winnipeg. Dumas had already been suspended without pay after a staff member lodged a misconduct complaint against him in May.
“There are policies that need to be put in place and women that need to be protected,” acting grand chief Cornell McLean said following the non-confidence vote among chiefs, which passed by a 30-13 margin.
“When you’re a leader in your community you can’t (mis)use your power of trust in any way, shape or form.”
Dumas had said the accusation was unfounded and earlier this week issued a press release that said he was seeking treatment for trauma.
He did not attend Friday’s meeting and attempts to reach him by The Canadian Press were unsuccessful. An automated response from his email account said he was out of the province.
“There were three requests into his legal counsel and he never responded at all,” McLean said.
The harassment complaint was probed by an independent investigation that found Dumas had engaged in workplace sexual harassment.
It was not the first time Dumas had faced a complaint. In 2019, he stepped away from the job temporarily after an Indigenous woman said he tried to pursue a relationship with her by using a false identity on social media.
McLean apologized to both women Friday on behalf of the assembly. His comments were greeted with applause by a group of Indigenous women who were gathered outside the closed-door meeting.
“This is a big step for us as far as it goes with the chiefs. They’re willing to back us up now,” said Lillian Cook, from Sagkeeng First Nation northeast of Winnipeg.
“There is so much abuse, harassment … the women are afraid to talk.”
Dumas was first elected grand chief in 2017 and was re-elected last year.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents 62 First Nations in the province.