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Phil Fontaine dismantles Department of Indian Affairs in Manitoba

The Story

Christmas comes early for Manitoba Grand Chief Phil Fontaine. On Dec. 7, 1994, Fontaine and Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin sign a historic agreement aimed at dismantling the influence of the Department of Indian Affairs in Manitoba. The revolutionary document, to be used as a blue print for other Native communities, will begin the process of developing and recognizing self-government for Manitoba's 60 Indian bands. "With the signing of this accord, the inherent right of First Nations to exercise the powers of self-government... is about to come into fruition," says Fontaine in this CBC Radio report. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Canada at Five
Broadcast Date: Dec. 7, 1994
Guests: Phil Fontaine
Host: Raphi Vigod
Reporter: Curt Petrovich
Duration: 1:50

Did You know?

• As the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Fontaine was the leader of the second most powerful Native group after the Assembly of First Nations.

• With the historic agreement, Ottawa agreed to the creation of 60 band governments in Manitoba. It also agreed to work towards transferring all the legislative, executive and judicial powers needed for Native self-government.

• As of 2005 the agreement has not yet been fully implemented. Manitoba's 60 Indian bands and Ottawa are still in the process of determining how to best transfer federal powers for Native self-rule.

• Critics of the initiative, which only applies to the province of Manitoba, said Fontaine's deal undermined First Nations unity and reduced bargaining power at the national level.

• The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is a highly decentralized organization aimed at improving the quality of life of Native people. Created in 1966, the department oversees issues such as past grievances and the discrepancies in living standards between First Nations and Inuit and non-Indigenous people. Although it seeks to promote skills towards self-government, many see the department as a hindrance to self-rule.


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