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Phil Fontaine charges church with abuse

The Story

Stories of abuse in residential schools have been shared among Indigenous Canadians for years, but nobody has confronted the churches about it -- until now. Phil Fontaine, leader of the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, is meeting with representatives of the Catholic Church. Fontaine, who attended a residential school in Fort Alexander, Man., wants the church to acknowledge the physical and sexual abuse of students at the schools. In this CBC Television report, the church agrees an inquiry is warranted.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 30, 1990
Guests: Claude Blanchette, Gerry Fontaine, Phil Fontaine, Jim Miller
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Saša Petricic
Duration: 2:15

Did You know?

• Phil Fontaine was born at the Fort Alexander reserve in Manitoba, and was chief of his community before becoming head of the Association of Manitoba Chiefs. In 1997 he was elected Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, a political organization representing Canada's Indigenous people.

• In an interview with Barbara Frum of The Journal, Fontaine said he was physically abused while at residential school.

• Although the church said an inquiry into residential schools was in order, neither it nor the government ever ordered one. Instead, the government convened a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1991. Many people told the Commission about their residential school experiences, and its 1996 report recommended a separate public inquiry into residential schools. That recommendation was never followed.

• One year before Fontaine came forward, CBC Television premiered a movie called Where the Spirit Lives, a fictional drama about one girl's experiences in a residential school. The movie won a 1990 Gemini Award for Best TV Movie and its star, Michelle St. John, won for Best Actress -- Dramatic Program.


A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools more