National Indigenous women’s group mired in controversy; local affiliates likely not affected

Jane Weyallon Armstrong (second from right) is seen here s seen here in a 2019 photo at a Native Women's Association of the NWT news conference following the release of the final report by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry. Weyallon Armstrong is now MLA for Monfwi. At the time, Caroline Wawzonek (right) was working with the association as its lawyer. She's now a GNWT cabinet minister. (File photo/CKLB.)

The Native Women’s Association of Canada is in deep turmoil, facing serious allegations of “union busting” while undergoing a federal financial audit amid budget cuts and mass layoffs.

CBC reports preliminary evidence of “ineligible expenses” have been found, while at the same time, the Association has laid off 78 employees, or about half its staff. Former workers have stated they left a “toxic workplace.”

All this as the Gatineau, Que., non-profit plans to build a boutique hotel with spa, convention centre, the thought being it could make the organization less dependent on the federal government for funding.

The Native Women’s Association of the NWT is affiliated with the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Requests for comment were directed to the national organization.

Speaking on background, a national spokesperson confirmed for CKLB the staff cuts were made at the head office and not at the provincial and territorial affiliated associations.

The national Association issued a media release stating it was forced to cut its workforce because of the termination of a national apprenticeship program and other government-funded projects.

The turmoil is rocking the national advocacy organization founded 50 years ago to enhance the well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women.

The Association faces complaints filed to the Ontario and Quebec labour boards from employees, who allege they were terminated after organizing a union drive, reports national media.

Former Native Women’s Association of Canada employee Crystal Semaganis told APTN National the non-profit needs a major overhaul.

She said she quit in April 2023 after being tired of feeling constantly devalued.

The organization has “become an elitist model that’s so far disconnected from Indigenous women,” Semaganis said.

“I would rather be poor, than work where I’m treated like I don’t matter.”

With the ending of the National Apprenticeship Program, the national organizations claims its annual revenue dropped from $48 million to $10 million.

The annual funding for staffing dropped correspondingly, from $11 million to $3 million.

The organization receives funding from various federal departments, provincial governments and the private sector.

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: