Phil Fontaine: Grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations
Don't be fooled by his soft-spoken and conciliatory manner. Phil Fontaine has been a dominant force in native politics since the 1970s. The Manitoba chief who once admitted to being petrified of public speaking was one of the first to speak publicly about residential school abuse. From masterminding the death of Meech Lake to dismantling the Department of Indian Affairs in Manitoba, the tenacious leader of Canada's most powerful native group has orchestrated key deals aimed at improving the quality of life for his people.
Standing side by side and sharing a laugh, the new AFN chief and the new minister of Indian Affairs Jane Stewart, both express desire to work towards improving the relationship between Ottawa and the AFN.
• In a reversal of the strained relationship that characterized Mercredi's later years, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien personally phoned Phil Fontaine to congratulate him on his AFN win.
• Mercredi had been the national chief of the AFN from 1991 to 1997.
• Phil Fontaine's victory was the result of some last minute negotiating. Fontaine had initially promised to support chiefs from B.C.'s Interior who opposed the way land claims were being settled in the province. But in order to win the support of his main rival, B.C. native chief Wendy Grant-John, he publicly stated that he wholeheartedly supported the B.C. process, a move that upset the Interior contingent.
• Mercredi dropped out of the race after the third ballot and threw his support behind Wendy Grant-John, deepening the antagonism between Mercredi and Fontaine.
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 31, 1997
Guests: Phil Fontaine, Jane Stewart
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Saša Petricic
Last updated: June 10, 2013
Page consulted on September 10, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
Fontaine plays a key role in killing Canada's constitutional accord.
Fontaine's tell-all interview of abuse at church-run residential schoo...
Fontaine talks about the impact of his painful past.
Bill Cameron interviews the front-runner in the AFN leadership race ab...
Fontaine on his childhood, residential schools and his lifelong intere...
His slick campaign spurs a backlash in an emotional AFN leadership rac...
Fontaine negotiates a historic document for Manitoba's natives.
Fontaine finally defeats his old rival on his second attempt for top j...
Fontaine's controversial appointment of a gang leader backfires.
The new chief of AFN is optimistic despite facing deep divisions and h...
Native leaders reject Fontaine's conciliatory style for Coon Come's fi...
Fontaine is re-elected as the leader of Assembly of First Nations.
Don't be fooled by his soft-spoken and conciliatory manner. Phil Fonta...