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Phil Fontaine’s shocking testimony of sexual abuse

The Story


Phil Fontaine has stunned the nation with his testimony of being physically and sexually abused. The head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is one of the first to speak candidly about the prevalence of the abuse at government-funded, church-run residential schools. "In my grade three class... if there were 20 boys, every single one of them... would have experienced what I experienced. They would have experienced some aspect of sexual abuse," Fontaine tells the CBC's Barbara Frum. Fontaine calls for an inquiry into residential school abuse. He holds nothing back in this explosive interview. Fontaine even hints at how he has gone from being the abused to being the abuser.

Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Oct. 30, 1990
Guest(s): Phil Fontaine
Host: Barbara Frum
Duration: 7:30

Did You know?


• At the time of this interview, Phil Fontaine was the head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), a position he held until 1997.

• Fontaine went to Oblates of Mary Immaculate residential school at Sagkeeng, then to the Assiniboia residential school in Winnipeg. In general, residential schools were for native children aged five to 16.

• Although the church agreed with Fontaine that 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. 

• On Jan. 7, 1998, Jane Stewart, Canada's minister of Indian Affairs, made a formal apology to those who were abused at residential schools. The federal government also established a $350 million healing fund for the victims.

• In June 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in Parliament for residential schools and the damage they caused to those attended them and their families. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was appointed the same month, charged with travelling the country to hear testimony from survivors of residential schools about their experience and its impact.


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