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Phil Fontaine not re-elected as AFN grand chief

The Story


The Assembly of First Nations has a new grand chief. In an unexpected turn of events Phil Fontaine loses his bid for re-election to Matthew Coon Come, the passionate Cree leader from Quebec. Coon Come defeats Fontaine by promising to return to more confrontational tactics with Ottawa. "I am disappointed," says Fontaine about his loss, "I thought the chiefs would opt for continuity and maintaining the momentum." The momentum Fontaine's referring to includes a whopping $350 million healing fund established by Ottawa to help those abused at residential schools. But observers say Fontaine has become a victim of his own success. Fontaine's skilful deal making has led to charges of being too cozy with Ottawa, a perception his rival Coon Come successfully played up. 

Medium: Television
Program: 24 Hours
Broadcast Date: July 13, 2000
Guest(s): Phil Fontaine
Host: Joni Nikolou
Duration: 4:23

Did You know?


• Three years earlier, the AFN had rejected Ovide Mercredi, Fontaine's predecessor, because it found his confrontational approach counterproductive. But during Fontaine's term in office, the AFN chiefs had grown increasingly unhappy by his chummy relationship with Ottawa.

• Matthew Coon Come received 50 per cent of the vote — eight points ahead of Fontaine — on the first ballot, 10 per cent short of a win. On the second ballot, Coon Come picked up another eight points, which led to Fontaine dropping out of the race.
• Coon Come was born on April 13, 1956, at Lake Mistassini, Que. He began his political career at age 21, when he dropped out of McGill University to become the deputy chief of the Mistassini Cree in 1977.

• During the campaign, Coon Come accused Fontaine of being far too close to the Liberal government. Fontaine's detractors have even suggested that the Liberals helped fund Fontaine's bid for a second consecutive term as the AFN leader.
• In 2001, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien named Fontaine the chief commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission.


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