(Assembly of First Nations British Columbia regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson apologizes to assembled chiefs over Instagram photo. APTN/Photo)
APTN National News
The Assembly of First Nations regional chief from British Columbia resigned from the missing and murdered Indigenous women portfolio Tuesday after he became embroiled in a controversy over an Instagram photo he posted over the weekend.
A contrite Shane Gottfriedson, the AFN regional chief for B.C., apologized to the chiefs assembly for posting the photograph of his naked legs with a googly-eyed and red lipped emoji tagged near his crotch. While he resigned from the portfolio he remains AFN regional chief for the province.
“I offended many people and I stand before you today, in a very humbled way,” said Gottfriedson, in a speech to the AFN chiefs assembly. “I have made a mistake and I am man enough to admit I made a mistake and I am humbled by this experience.”
Gottfriedson said he discussed the photo, which he deleted from his Instagram account after being contacted by APTN National News Monday, with the AFN women’s council. He said he would be seeking guidance from the AFN Elders council and discussing the issue with the B.C. chiefs caucus later Tuesday.
Gottfriedson said he would be giving up his role as portfolio holder for murdered and missing Indigenous women.
“My heart tells me that is the right thing to do because all along I’ve been saying we need to change our attitude of how we conduct ourselves,” said Gottfriedson. “I want to say again to our women’s council and all the women, I am very sorry if I offended you.”
Gottfriedson posted the photo on Instagram on Saturday and it quickly began to circulate. The Native Women’s Association of Canada on Monday said it was “disturbed” by the photo and called on the AFN to rectify the situation.
Bernadette Marshall, vice president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Organization, called the photo “sick” and said he should resign from his post as AFN regional chief.
Gottfriedson was alerted to the controversy over the photo by APTN late Monday afternoon. After he deleted the photo, Gottfriedson said he spent a night of contemplation seeking advice from elders and speaking with his wife, who works with him at the AFN BC regional office.
Gottfriedson told the assembly he phoned AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde to inform him of the situation. He then turned to BC AFN Elder Gwen Point who stood next to him on stage.
“In those moments, when I felt very broken and very humbled, my Elder gave me good advice, so I want to say, I am very sorry,” said Gottfriedson.
Point said after she spent part of the evening with Gottfriedson, counselling him, she couldn’t concentrate on anything else and sent him an email.
“I hope you heard the words from the women’s council,” Point said, recounting the words she wrote in the email. “I hope you heard the words. They accepted your apology and that it takes courage to stand up and admit you’ve done something wrong.”
Bellegarde hugged Gottfriedson after the apology.
It remains unclear who on the AFN executive will now take over the missing and murdered Indigenous women portfolio, which is a key role given a national inquiry is preparing to begin hearings next spring.
There were some suggestions the AFN women’s council should take over the portfolio because no women sit on the AFN executive.