Anonymous Submission – Trouble in Atikokan

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(OPINION/SUBMISSION) – Former employees of the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre say they were bullied into resigning or being fired for speaking out about workplace intimidation at the hands of the non-Indigenous executive director Sarah Laurich. Since she was hired by the ANFC board in 2016, fourteen of 17 employees have lost their jobs (eight were fired, six resigned. Also, the majority of the board has now resigned.

Most of the staff were coordinators of programs the centre receives specific funds to run to provide services to urban Aboriginals in Atikokan ranging in ages from prenatal to seniors.

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With only a few of those positions now filled (the seniors lifelong care program coordinator was fired in just recent weeks) the centre is struggling to even keep it’s doors open.

Former staff say things went from bad to worse after eight employees signed a letter of concern about a toxic workplace environment which they sent to both the local ANFC board and the Ontario Federation Of Indigenous Centres. Every one of the workers who signed the letters subsequently lost their jobs and were informed that they could either quit or be fired, say staff.

One such terminated employee, a prominent parliamentarian of seven years in the region, attended the Centre’s last annual general meeting, where she reported a body check assault by the executive director’s husband Dave Laurich at the event. OPP investigated the incident and charges were laid after six of the remaining employees were questioned and some provided witness statements to the police. Regardless of whether or not the employees gave statements to the police, they have all subsequently lost their jobs.

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These employees (many who are Indigenous) question how a Centre that is government-funded and runs programs for Indigenous people, seemingly has no oversight.

They question the legality and ethics of the treatment of employees and the lack of services now being provided to the community’s Aboriginal population, and the seeming discrepancy in the program enrollment numbers provided to funding agencies…

Many in the community are wondering if there is any hope for the OFIFC, the remaining ANFC board of directors–or virtually anyone in the community–to step up and investigate these allegations.

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36 Replies to “Anonymous Submission – Trouble in Atikokan”

  1. Sounds like staff were finally being held accountable for their positions and decided to make a complaint because of hurt feelings, like so many complaints in this world these days.

    1. Speak for yourself. Not others. One person I know very well has more integrity then you or the Ed or board put together

    2. Speak for yourself. I know a former employee very well who is very well respected and has more integrity than the Ed and board put together

    3. not sure how you came to that conclusion reading this.. perhaps its the saviour mentality of putting a non indigenous person in charge of overseeing and undermining the indigenous people, how can you deliver programming and healing with no understanding of indigenous cultures? , yet another usurper

    4. Sounds like you don’t know what you are talking about. I know some of these workers and you will not find a harder working bunch than they.

    5. Amen to that. If it were a NON – WHITE there would be nothing done and corruption would continue!!! Awwwwwwwwww!!! About time they were caught and fired!!!! Like so many chiefs, band council member and other NON-White administration!!

    6. Race card gets pulled every time the question of “where is the money being spent?” comes up, EVERY TIME. When the time comes for replacing those committing the offences, the “bullied, toxic environment” card gets pulled. The person trying to manage this organization is the oversight that the community was asking for. When its time for them to do their job, they question the persons race… same old story. @Colleen, do oversee these individuals? Do you work closely with them? Have you seen the evidence for or against them of abusing their spending privileges and funding allocations? Coming from a business owner, sometimes the people you trust the most, the people you least expect, are the ones stealing from you.

  2. Maybe it’s time for people to pull their heads out of their asses and get some people that aren’t involved with it to look into what’s really going on there and make the changes that are needed to be mad before atikokan becomes atighost town

  3. Yes..I am in total agreement with Mr.Byrd..the staff didn’t like the idea that they had to be held accountable for the money that was spend inappropriately by them. The staff wanted to spend money that was provided for clients on their own personal agenda. They didn’t wanted to comply with their mandate as set out by the funders or by the policy and procedures of the ANFC.. As for the OFIFC they only investigates if money is spent inappropriately and are not involved in the running of the centre. Please in the future report the truth instead of innuendos of disgruntled staff. This is my personal opinion as I see the situation.

  4. Such a loss. ANFC provided so much!! to not only the Indigenous peoples but also to the community. With that much loss of staff-perhaps it’s not the staff at all and some other underlying initiatives.

  5. Sounds like the Executive Director may have underestimated the situation and mishandled these staffing issues she had to deal with.

    First of all, if there was inappropriate misconduct of employees, each case should have been documented, formally investigated, responsibility assigned and discipline issued.

    In addition, it would appear that the Exec. Director didn’t have the foresight to see that the wagons were being circled and that a mass revolt would be inevitable. Prior to giving the disgruntled employees the opportunity to do that, she should have sought legal assistance, and brought in non-associated witnesses to be apprised of the situation caused by the failings of the responsible employees. That would have kicked the chair out from under them if in fact they were conducting themselves inappropriately and were trying to intimidate the Exec. Director.

    Nonetheless, the Exec. Director should welcome an open outside investigation, if in fact she has documented proof of employee misconduct.

    It would be very much interesting to have a follow up of the investigation if one is conducted.

  6. I would like to know why that have 3 maybe 4 places that are being used, the Old TD Bank, ANFC where the old theatre was and an back room at the Pet Store on Main, and they did use the Old Furniture Store in the mall ,that I don’t know if that is still being used. How can they have so many places when others have to pay a high price for rental of such buildings. I know the ANFC has helped a lot of people of other Nationalities. I myself have used some of their services, such as borrowing health care items, and free swim and lunch And it was greatly appreciated, I enjoyed my time there. The staff is very friendly. Thank You All who helped . Merry Christmas and Hope everything gets back to normal.

    1. The ANFC is only at the theatre building and they have a store to sell goods at in the pet store. The TD bank is the Metis Nation of Ontario. That is a whole separate thing. They were in the mall because the actual ANFC building had severe water damage from a massive rain fall and had to be renovated so they temporarily moved there. So, they don’t have multiple buildings and they have been in the theatre for a LONG time.

    2. My apology to all who was offended with my comment, I don’t know much about Indigenous and Native Community. I assumed they were all the same group. I will make sure I have my information is correct before I reply about anything else. I have nothing against people, Black ,White or Male ,Female, Religion……I believe we are all created equal and we are entitled to our own believes and behaviour. Yours Sincerly Rosalyn Freeman

  7. Anytime there are any questions concerning accountability or when asked to show how the money was spent, out comes the axes to grind and accusations. Simply sounds like a new sherrif came to town and cleaned up and now some others are pisssed cause the party is over. Plain and simple.

  8. My estranged daughter told me of the time she spent at the “shelter” — some horror stories – especially when they found out she was NON-Aboriginal but had been living with an Aboriginal!!!!

  9. There are no original staff there! They either quit or were fired and fired right before Christmas! It has nothing to do about a party and it being over and the ex-staff were pissed or had hurt feelings. It isn’t about a new Sheriff in town and cleaning house. Staff were not entitled to see their program budgeting they were told “don’t worry about the money, we will take care of it”, they did follow their mandates as help was giving to everyone who walked through the doors! So the ones commenting on here that the staff have hurt feeling or weren’t following their mandates or spending programming money on things they weren’t suppose to be should maybe look a little deeper on a subject that you are not aware of. I have seen the staff working with clients, hugging them, giving them food and even crying with them. These workers loved their clients, loved their jobs and were honest hard working people.

    1. *ex-staff weren’t pissed nor had hurt feelings what it came down to was they wanted the person and people such as the board held accountable!

    2. To Chad — Your comment just shows how low classed and ill-informed you are!! Not to mention nazi like and not allowing someone else’s knowledge opinion to be taken seriously or — even respected!! So how the h— can I respect you or many Aboriginals — eh???

  10. Victim blaming. Wow It’s disgusting how the assault is ignored from the comments. Shame on you people who are commenting about the staff! A couple of comments are victim blaming the staff that have been fired or quit. Taking the focus off the white person that has created this fucking mess! This Lady has destroyed this organization!
    I hope these staff take legal action nobody deserves to be abused in the workplace especially from a white woman claiming to “help” the indigenous. We don’t need your help!!!…..we are resilient !!!

    1. You used the work “white” twice in reference to race. If others used the word “red” or “brown” in reference to one’s race you’d be screaming “racism”. Funny how that door swings both ways but only for “white” people right?

      Reading between the lines of your comments, it becomes clear that this “white” person likely found inappropriate conduct and took the bull by the horns. If she’s truly at fault, why haven’t the employees sought legal assistance or gone to the Ontario Employment Standards Information Centre or Ontario Human Rights to file wrongful dismissal claims against her?

      There was obviously misconduct of some sort going on to precipitate this event. Skilled managers don’t just shows up to a new position and fire people without reasonable cause.

      Seems to me that the disgruntled employees are taking the usual route of making a lot of noise and blowing smoke because that’s all they have.

  11. I believe that Rex, as usual has made a very good point on how to go about a problem as such,but when it comes to documenting employee behavior, so you have some ammo to protect yourself, may not always be the truth. I know first hand that my supervisor made up bogus stories about a couple of employees that he butted heads with and eventually was able convince HR to fire these individuals for misconduct. Over a course of about a year he sent himself E-mails with falsified stories of these employees conduct ( all Lies ) and presented them too HR making it look like these things actually occured, because of the time stamps on all the E-mails. Anyone can be a victim in this manner. If you are a good employee and think this could happen to you, I find using a recording device whenever in a conversation with your employer could be helpful.

  12. Just because this has all come to the surface doesn’t mean that staff who were let go aren’t dealing with legal counsel. People are making assumptions that they are just blowing smoke they feel in their hearts this a real concern as do quite a few community members.

  13. I personally think that everyone should be quiet, what everyone is speaking of is hear say unless you worked there. However it would seem all the employees are wrong and are apparently criminals according to some of the comments made, but one single person is right. If people looked back at the different things the N.F.C. did before she came and what is being done know , which is not much should speak volumes. I know of numerous employees that did many different things on their own time and they didn’t expect to get paid for, they did it out of the goodness of their hearts, for their clients and the town. I am not an Indigenous person, but do think that if you are not a employee or client you should not be making such outrageous accusations about people you know nothing about.
    SHAME ON YOU ALL.

  14. Rex. Do you like to be referred to as caucasion,or white or pink, or German,Italian,etc. Point is that we are Canadians… And this Conversation does make us look strong and free ! CANADA rules!!! Why bitch about this issue on money. We can’t take it with us when we die. Let’s not argue about who is a different color or which religion is full of Skinner’s and pedophiles…(residential schools) . F++k sakes . do priests have a.religion? Yes. Are 90 percent of priests pedophiles. Yes. Should they burn in hell? YES.

    1. Wow!! How do you live with your racist hateful self?? Your mind is so corrupt and hateful!!! grow up I have no respect for people like you who are problematic!!!!

    2. Basically she has no respect for the natives that speak out against the injustices they and others like them have received… indians should ‘tow the line’ and not be so, “problematic”!

  15. It sounds to me like the ED and her board is a slimy self righteous cow! They all walk around like nothing can touch because why they are amazing and are saving the Indigenous people out there. Good luck sounds to me like they are trying to cover up bullshit!

  16. Roxanne Wensley can you explained to the public why Dave Laurich the ED’s husband is allowed at the ANFC after he assaulted one on your employees? And then you guys terminate and give her a no trespass I thought you were putting the public’s safety first? Why is Dave Laurich allowed to buy/sell illegal substances off of clients? Why is Dave laurich allowed to intimidate, bully and harass your employees and clients. Can you also explain to the public how you got kicked off the Atikokan Bass Classic Committee for stealing their beer for your wedding? How they came to your house and took it back? LOL and now you call yourself the ANFC president? Who in were the members who voted you in? Who are making these decisions? your so called investigation needs to be completed by non bias professionals who actually know what they are doing not done by some puppets who are intimidated by Dave Laurich

  17. Regardless of what went down and how, no one deserves to be assaulted at work. I think the fact that it’s the ED’s husband who was charged with assault, speaks volumes as to how the staff were treated and what was happening behind the scenes. Then, the same group running the show at the ANFC seemed to think it was ok to fire a bunch of hard-working people right before Christmas. Many who were terminated had clean and unblemished personnel files. A lot of you are making assumptions that it was the staff who didn’t like the accountability, but maybe it was the other way around. Maybe the staff, many of whom were long-serving, saw what they perceived to be things that were happening which put the ANFC, and their clients, in jeopardy. Maybe they spoke up and were fired for shining a light on things. For those of you who were quick to say the staff were spending money recklessly, who do you think authorizes the spending and signs the cheques? I’d personally think it wasn’t the staff doing the misspending, if that was indeed happening. Has anyone reached out to the axed staff? I’m sure you’d be surprised about the evidence they have supporting their claims.

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