WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s top Indigenous leader is taking a leave of absence as allegations of inappropriate messaging swirl around him.
Grand Chief Arlen Dumas maintains his innocence but also said these allegations have made him take a look at his “informal communication style.”
Dumas says he has “never operated under a fake Facebook account” and that someone is claiming to be him under a false Facebook name as a part of a political smear and that’s how this all came to be.
“This is not the first time false social media allegations have been made against me or many other First Nation leaders and Canadian politicians. It is unfortunate, but this likely won’t be the last time,” reads a statement issued by the Assembly of Manitoba’s Chiefs on behalf of Dumas.
Bethany Maytaywashing, 22, says she received unwanted Facebook messages from a Charles Forbes who claimed to be Arlen Dumas.
MORE: Women’s Council investigating allegations against Grand Chief
Maytaywashing has called for an investigation and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Women’s Council had previously confirmed that it’s probing the allegations.
But Dumas it wasn’t him on Facebook. He does, however, say he had a text relationship with Maytaywashing–but it wasn’t romantic.
“I did not pursue a relationship of an intimate nature with this woman. I was asked by her for advice and guidance on her path forward. I provided assistance to the best of my professional ability. I messaged her to follow-up,” adding he does this regularly with community members, students, and colleagues.
“As the Grand Chief, every single day is filled with in-person meetings, phone calls, e-mail and text messages.”
Dumas’ statement goes on to say after seeing the upset caused by his informality, he has taken time to reflect if his casual style is appropriate for a professional role.
“Upon reflection, I realize that this style of open and informal communication may not be suited to the role of Grand Chief. While I was sincerely trying to respond to her requests for support, it is clear from her recent public expression of concern that she did not appreciate our informal message exchange. I apologize if this made her feel uncomfortable.
“This incident has also caused me to reflect on how others may be feeling the same way about my open and informal communication style but did not feel comfortable to tell me directly. If I have ever made anyone else feel uncomfortable in my communication style, then I would also like to apologize to them as well. I can assure you that this was never my intention, but what matters here is how people feel. I take responsibility for that.”
The AMC says Dumas is now on a leave of absence and will be using that time to receive counselling for losses within his family and also take professional sensitivity training.