The Assembly of First Nations says a wrongful dismissal lawsuit the national advocacy group’s former human resources director filed in June “is entirely without merit and should be dismissed.”
Robin Henry, who previously worked for Namgis First Nation in B.C., alleges the AFN sacked him without cause and without notice less than a year after he was hired, according to his statement of claim. He seeks $200,000 in damages and contends the circumstances of his May 2022 firing amount to wrongful dismissal.
The AFN, in a statement of defence filed on July 29, says Henry signed an employment contract that “ousted” his right to receive reasonable notice before being terminated without cause under Canadian common law.
The AFN contends it “conducted itself with civility, dignity and the utmost diligence and good faith at all material times throughout the plaintiff’s employment and in the events leading up to the termination,” according to the defence.
Henry’s suit acknowledges he signed a deal “purporting to limit his entitlements upon dismissal without cause,” but says this clause in his contract is too ambiguous to hold up in court.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Henry’s lawyer didn’t respond to an interview request from CBC News.
2nd case in as many years
The case represents the second time a former staffer has sued the AFN for wrongful dismissal in as many years.
A former communications officer with similar allegations sued for $100,000 in December 2020. The case was dismissed on consent a few months later, the court registry shows.
In both legal battles the AFN has been represented by a lawyer from Fasken, one of the country’s largest business law firms which also, as of this week, employs former national chief Perry Bellegarde.
The AFN was formed in 1982 as a chiefs’ umbrella group tasked with advocating federally for First Nations people. But in recent years legal troubles, external probes and political feuds involving allegations of bullying, harassment and corruption have occasionally sidelined that advocacy mandate.
Henry filed his lawsuit less than a month after allegations of a toxic workplace at the AFN became public.
Staffers in the national chief’s office accused their boss, National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, of creating toxicity and conflict, while the national chief accused those same staffers of trying to discredit her through “backroom deals.”
The AFN, in its defence against Henry’s suit, says “it did not engage in any conduct which is high-handed, malicious, arbitrary, highly reprehensible, or which departed at all or to a marked degree from ordinary standards of decent behaviour” in terminating the former director.
Both parties agreed a trial should be held in Ottawa but, according to the filings, no date has been set.