The CEO of the Assembly of First Nations is resigning, according to an email seen by CBC News, another blow to the national organization that has been hounded by allegations of a toxic workplace.
In an email sent to all secretariat staff on Monday, the AFN’s vice-president of operations and administration Jonathan Thompson said Janice Ciavaglia has tendered her resignation effective March 10.
The AFN executive, which is composed of regional chiefs and the national chief, will discuss the process to hire a new CEO and someone in the interim, the email said.
The email did not say why Ciavaglia resigned. An email sent to her AFN address bounced back saying she does not currently have access to emails.
AFN communications officer Kelly Reid said, “We have no comment,” when asked about the resignation.
Ciavaglia filed complaint against national chief
The CEO is the top administrative official who oversees the AFN’s non-political arm, known as the secretariat, which has more than 170 employees who focus on policy work. The AFN advocates for more than 600 First Nations.
Ciavaglia, a teacher by training, joined the AFN as director of education before the executive committee hired her as CEO in 2020 during Perry Bellegarde’s last term as national chief.
She helped the organization navigate new federal Indigenous child welfare legislation, the response to the pandemic, and a proposed $20-billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit over the underfunding of on-reserve child and family services.
In 2021, Ciavaglia was named as one of Canada’s top 40 leaders under the age of 40 for making positive change for First Nations.
Ciavaglia is also one of five complainants who filed workplace misconduct complaints against National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, which are all under investigation.
The complaints allege Archibald exhibited “paranoia” against Ciavaglia, who the national chief has accused of collusion, according to a July 4 briefing note from the law firm Stockwoods Barristers.
Archibald called the complaints a “smear campaign” designed to undermine her leadership.
Murray Sinclair no longer working with AFN as mediator
Archibald’s acting chief of staff Joyce Hunter filed a complaint against Ciavaglia, members of the AFN executive committee and the four other staffers accusing Archibald of misconduct.
The executive didn’t order an investigation into that complaint. The investigation into the five against Archibald is ongoing.
AFN chiefs were told in December Archibald hadn’t made herself available for an interview with investigators despite their repeated requests to sit down with her between August and then.
Archibald also faced an external investigation in 2020 during her role as Ontario regional chief. The investigator found the allegations “credible,” but the investigation was dropped since none of the complainants wanted to file official complaints. Archibald maintained those allegations were reprisal for her allegations of financial improprieties at the AFN.
Aaron Detlor, Archibald’s legal counsel, said he had no information about Ciavaglia’s resignation. When asked if he’s concerned Ciavaglia could take legal action against the national chief, he said the AFN needs fewer lawyers.
“We’re hoping, generally speaking, that less lawyers, less litigation means better results,” he said.
After Archibald survived an attempted ouster as national chief, she announced in December 2022 that the AFN was hiring Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as a mediator to help with conflict resolution.
CBC News has learned Sinclair has temporarily stepped away from professional commitments to manage a health issue.
Ciavaglia’s departure comes as the AFN seeks to fill multiple senior positions within the secretariat, including directors of economic development, communications and human resources.