Phil Fontaine

President
Ishkonigan Inc. and Former National Chief of Assembly of First Nations
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Phil Fontaine is among the most recognizable and respected figures in Canada. His influence goes well beyond politics and the Indigenous communities he loyally serves. Phil has touched the lives of all Canadians in one way or another.

Phil has been instrumental in facilitating change and advancement for First Nations people for most of his life. At the age of 28, he was first elected to public office as Chief. Phil is a proud citizen of Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba and continues to play an active role in the support of his community.

In the early 1980’s, Phil was elected to the position of Manitoba Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) where he served for eleven years. In 1991, he was elected Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs where he served three consecutive terms. During his tenure there, Phil played a key role in the development of Manitoba’s Framework Agreement Initiative, in the strategic defeat of the Meech Lake Accord, and signed an groundbreaking Employment Equity agreement with 39 federal agencies.

In 1997, he stepped onto the national stage where he was elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations for an unprecedented three terms in office.

His accomplishments as National Chief are both enormous and historically significant:

  • Signing the Declaration of Kinship and Cooperation of the Indigenous and First Nations of North America
  • The first Indigenous leader to address the Organization of American States
  • Leading the successful resolution and settlement of the 150 year Indian residential school tragedy
  • Facilitating the historical apology by the Canadian government for residential schools
  • Establishing the Making Poverty History Campaign
  • Lobbying for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
  • Negotiating a fair and just process for the settlement of Specific land claims.

Phil’s strong belief in creating an inclusive Assembly of First Nations ensured that all information was accessible in both French and English languages, while ensuring simultaneous translation in several Indigenous languages at AFN gatherings. He also initiated the AFN Renewal Commission, a groundbreaking process that resulting in substantial recommendations to improve the political structure of the Assembly of First Nations.

Phil’s strong belief in creating an inclusive Assembly of First Nations ensured that all information was accessible in both French and English languages, while ensuring simultaneous translation in several Indigenous languages at AFN gatherings. He also initiated the AFN Renewal Commission, a groundbreaking process that resulting in substantial recommendations to improve the political structure of the Assembly of First Nations.