The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which is embroiled in a sexual harassment case involving its suspended grand chief, cultivated a workplace "most often described as toxic" that drove high employee turnover, a report obtained by the Free Press reveals.
The external consultant’s report echoes the stories told by five women who recently worked for the assembly. They allege managers and executives who are close to Arlen Dumas, the suspended chief, bullied staff.
"The workplace culture is one that is described as toxic, lacking trust and respect, gossip-mongering and back-biting," reads the report.
“The workplace culture is one that is described as toxic, lacking trust and respect, gossip–mongering and back–biting.” – Report
The assembly had asked human resources specialist Kimberley Levasseur Puhach to conduct a high-level analysis of its organizational structure in light of increased workload.
Instead, the report uncovered deep-seated issues that required immediate attention by the time it was presented to the assembly’s personnel and finance committee on March 26, 2021.
"Throughout the course of all interviews, respondents alluded to issues within the organization involving interpersonal conflicts," the report reads.
"Issues are noted as unprofessional, bullying, belittling, power- and control-mongering, sabotaging, blaming, micro-managing and demoralizing."
Women who had worked at the assembly after Dumas took office in 2017 argued he set the tone for that work culture.
Dumas was suspended in March after a senior female manager alleged he had sexually assaulted her. Police said Wednesday the investigation remains active.
The assembly also launched what it called an impartial human resources investigation. Former staff said they had been interviewed in recent days, though the scope and independence of the probe remains unclear.
Chiefs were to hold a non-confidence vote on Dumas May 4, but delayed that decision. The assembly said the HR probe must conclude before the vote so it doesn’t influence investigators.
Three years ago, Dumas took a brief leave after acknowledging he had made comments and sent text messages to young women that made them uncomfortable.
The five former female staffers asked to have their names withheld because they feared career repercussions.
They allege that people close to the grand chief bullied subordinates.
"There were so many good people there that are abused," said one woman, who had been a manager.
“There were so many good people there that are abused.” – Former manager
She was initially thrilled to work at the assembly, but became alarmed by the high staff turnover.
"I was very proud. Like, what an honour to work for my nation, my people," she said.
"The verbal and mental and lateral abuse — I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’d go home from work and I’d cry."
The manager said two younger female staff members told her that Dumas had texted them and asked to meet after hours. She told them to report it to human resources, but that didn’t seem to change anything, and both women left within months.
Another recent employee said Dumas sent her a late night text on her second day of work in which he asked what she was up to. When she responded that her boyfriend was visiting, the conversation ended.
"It doesn’t start off on a good note when the leader of your organization is creep-texting you on Day 2 and then you find out more about his behaviour," she said.
"He is disrespecting and objectifying our women. There are more than enough awesome people out there, who are not going to exploit others," said the woman.
“It doesn’t start off on a good note when the leader of your organization is creep–texting you on Day 2 and then you find out more about his behaviour.” – Employee
She said the grand chief’s two main assistants constantly scrutinized her, to the point that she dreaded going to work and ended up taking anti-anxiety medicine.
"We deserve to work somewhere and not be harassed," she said.
The March 2021 report called out those two executives for "bullying behaviours that have demoralized and belittled many staff members."
The report said the chief of staff had "micro-management… and authoritarian-style issues." It noted that "her agenda is unknown and her style is abrasive and disrespectful."
The report notes "the individual is not seen as having the competence especially as it related to leading and managing people."
Two other staffers said they were informally reprimanded every time they raised concerns about the woman to human resources.
Another was badgered for getting a doctor’s authorization to take a stress leave.
"There is a massive lack of respect for each other," the report reads.
"Staff are focused on survival through protective mechanisms such as creating alliances, ‘camp’ building, information hoarding, deep-silo building, covering and withholding communication in fear of job loss or retribution."
It goes on to say the assembly, which advocates against oppressive structures, has one itself.
The Free Press requested an interview with the two senior executives accused of bullying, and asked which of the 50 recommendations outlined in the report have been implemented.
Instead, the assembly had Alberta lawyer Carly Fox provide a statement that she attributed to the acting grand chief, Cornell McLean.
"AMC takes complaints and allegations seriously and any matter violating human resource policy and procedures will be processed with due diligence," the statement reads.
"Because these matters are subject to privacy and confidentiality in nature, we are not able to discuss or report on such matters, as it would be a violation of privacy laws, personal policies and workplace health and safety policies."
The author of the report declined to speak with the Free Press because she had signed a confidentiality agreement.
Parliamentary bureau chief
In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"