IN DEPTH: ABORIGINAL CANADIANS|
CBC News Online | November 16, 2005
Phil Fontaine's political debut came in 1973 when he became chief of his own Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. He was 27. After two consecutive terms, he took a job with the federal government as regional director general in the Yukon.
National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine attends a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Thursday, March 11, 2004 after meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)
In 1980, he returned to Manitoba to complete a degree in political science at the University of Manitoba. After graduation, he worked for the Southeast Tribal Council as a special advisor and was the deputy co-ordinator of the Native Economic Program, eventually becoming Manitoba vice-chief for the Assembly of First Nations.
In 1991, Fontaine was elected grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, serving three consecutive terms. According to his 2003 campaign biography, he was instrumental in the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord, the development of Manitoba's Framework Agreement Initiative, and an employment equity agreement with 39 federal agencies.
Fontaine became grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 1997, succeeding Ovide Mercredi. He quickly gained a reputation as a diplomat who preferred negotiation over confrontation. His approach led many chiefs to see him as a sell-out when dealing with the federal government.
He lost his bid for a second consecutive term to Matthew Coon Come in July 2000, as the assembly shifted from Fontaine's moderate approach to a more radical one. But he was back three years later.
The 2003 AFN leadership race coincided with the federal government's decision to push forward with several pieces of legislation referred to collectively as the First Nations Governance Act. The prospect of having someone with Fontaine's political connections leading the country's main First Nations lobby organization raised a crucial question: if the legislation was going to happen with or without First Nations consent, would his connections be an asset or a liability? Would they give him the ear of government, or would they make him easier to control?
The legislation died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in the fall of 2003.
In 2005, Fontaine scored some successes with the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin.
On May 30, he signed a deal aimed at resolving the legacy of residential schools.
The accord was based on the AFN's Report on Canada's Dispute Resolution Plan to Compensate for Abuses in Indian Residential Schools, released in November 2004.
The deal's highlights included:
A day later, Fontaine signed another accord. This one - The Recognition and Implementation of First Nations Governments - was billed as an opportunity to give life to the inherent aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, as recognized under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.
- A national apology.
- An improved compensation process for serious abuse victims.
- A lump sum payment for former students.
- A national forum for a comprehensive truth and reconciliation process.
Fontaine said the deal shows a new relationship between the federal government and First Nations Canadians.
Clément Chartier has been involved in aboriginal politics since he was called to the Saskatchewan bar in 1980.
He's built a reputation as a lawyer, writer, lecturer and activist who focused on Métis and aboriginal rights in general. He has acted as a spokesperson and advisor to the Métis Nation at several first ministers conferences on the Canadian Constitution and in sessions of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in Geneva.
Chartier was born at Ile a la Crosse in northwestern Saskatchewan in 1946. He was raised in the Métis community of Buffalo Narrows.
He has served in both political and administrative capacities with numerous indigenous organizations including:
Chartier acted as legal counsel in several landmark court cases including one that affirmed the harvesting rights of the Métis of northwestern Saskatchewan, and the Powley decision, which reaffirmed the constitutional recognition of the Métis as a distinct aboriginal group.
Chartier was elected president of the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan in 1998 and held that post until 2003 when he was elected president of the Métis National Council.
- Native Youth Association of Canada: executive director
- Métis National Council: chairperson
- World Council of Indigenous Peoples: president
- Canadian Indian Lawyers Association: president
- Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples: policy analyst
- Métis National Council: ambassador
- Methy Pathways in Buffalo Narrows: manager
Jose Kusugak has been active in Inuit politics since 1971, shortly after the founding of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (then Inuit Tapirisat of Canada). He persuaded the new organization of the critical need to standardize the written Inuit language. Until then Inuktitut had been primarily an oral language and there was no standardized written language.
Jose Kusugak, President of the Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, unveils the new logo for the Inuit at a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, May 2, 2002.(CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand)
Kusugak was born on May 2, 1950, in an igloo in Naujaat (then Repulse Bay), located on the Arctic Circle. He is the second-eldest of 12 children. Both his parents worked for the Hudson's Bay Company. His father was a handyman. His mother worked as a cleaner and fur washer.
Kusugak went to school in Chesterfield Inlet and Churchill, Man., and attended high school in Saskatoon. After he graduated, he returned to Rankin Inlet to work at the Eskimo Language School, a branch of the University of Saskatchewan. Later, he taught Inuktitut and Inuit History, at Churchill Vocational Centre.
Kusugak worked as an assistant to Tagak Curley, the first president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, introducing the concept of land claims to Inuit in the Arctic. In 1974, he went to Alaska to study how the land claims process worked there.
From 1980 to 1990, Kusugak worked as the Area Manager of CBC in the Kivalliq (Keewatin) region. He served as president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated - one of the four regional organizations that make up the ITK - from 1994 to 2000.
He was elected president of ITK in June 2000. He describes the relationship of the Inuit to Canada as First Canadians, Canadians First.
Beverley Jacobs was elected president of the Native Women's Association of Canada in 2004. She's a Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in southwestern Ontario.
Jacobs obtained a law degree from the University of Windsor and a master's degree in law from the University of Saskatchewan before opening her own law office on the Six Nations Reserve in 2003. She articled with prominent human rights lawyer Mary Eberts in Toronto, focusing on the legal issues facing the NWAC as interveners in a series of legal challenges.
Jacobs was the lead researcher and consultant for Amnesty International on their Stolen Sisters report, which highlighted the racial and sexualized violence against missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
She estimates that at least 500 aboriginal women have vanished or been killed since 1985. She has pressed various levels of government to do more to protect native women. She says the disappearance of a non-native woman sparks "a national spree of news stories" but dozens of unsolved murders of aboriginal women don't inspire the same reaction.
Jacobs has also focused on winning back status rights for native women who were stripped of their rights because of who they married before 1985, when changes were made to the Indian Act. With no status rights, the women are denied the right to live on a reserve.
Jacobs has taught at several colleges and universities in Ontario and Saskatchewan, leading courses on native self-determination, Canadian Indian policies, Canadian law and aboriginal people, and First Nations women and the law.
Dwight Allister Dorey
Dwight Allister Dorey won re-election for a second term as president of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) on Nov. 8, 2002.
Chief Dwight Dorey of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples leaves the Supreme Court in Ottawa Wednesday, July 20, 2005. The Supreme Court rendered its judgments on N.B cases on native logging say that natives are not entitled to log on crown land.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)
The congress is the national advocacy organization for more than 800,000 off-reserve aboriginal people living in urban, rural and remote areas throughout Canada.
In September 2004, Dorey clashed with the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations when AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine insisted that his group be the only native group present at a conference on health care. Fontaine threatened to skip the conference if the federal government stuck to his plans to include the CAP and the Native Women's Association of Canada.
"I think it is just childish on the part of any other national leader to claim they have a veto over other participants," Dorey said at the time.
In the end, all native groups were at a meeting with the government leaders before the conference opened.
Dorey – a Mi'kmaq from Lunenburg County, N.S. – has been involved in aboriginal politics at the provincial, national and international levels for more than 25 years.
He served as senior policy adviser to the congress before he was elected to his first term as national chief. In 1989, he was elected chief and president of the Native Council of Nova Scotia. He held that post until 1997.
Dorey's professional career includes stints as president and general manager of the Mikmakik Development Corporation in Nova Scotia, and as operations manager for the Associated Management Group in Toronto.
He holds a master's degree in Canadian studies from Carleton University in Ottawa. Among his major challenges as president of the CAP is to change the perception that it is an eastern-based organization.
"We want to have a stronger presence in the West," Dorey said.
Total population of Canada: 31,414,000|
Total people of aboriginal origin: 1,319,890
North American Indian:
More than one aboriginal origin:
People of aboriginal origin living on reserve: 285,625
People of aboriginal origin living off reserve: 1,034,260
People of non-aboriginal origin living on reserve: 36,230
(Source: 2001 Census, Statistics Canada)
*includes people of a single aboriginal origin and those of a mix of one aboriginal origin with non-aboriginal origins