Phil Fontaine served three terms as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and was one of the earliest proponents for an inquiry into this country’s residential schools.
Fontaine, along with his 9 brothers and two sisters, and both of his parents attended residential school on the Fort Alexander Reserve in Manitoba. Phil’s father passed away when he was six and it was left to his mother along with her brothers and sisters to raise the 12 children. In June of 1952, only a few months after her husband’s death Fontaine’s mother became the first Aboriginal woman elected to a band council. Fontaine followed his mother’s footsteps and entered public life and was elected to serve two terms as Chief of the Sagkeeng First Nation.
It was after this experience as chief that Fontaine returned to school and attended the University of Manitoba. Armed with a degree, Fontaine went to work for the federal government for a number of years before returning to public life. In 1997 he was elected for the first time as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He was re-elected in 2003 and 2006. In 2005 he helped negotiate the $5.6B Indian Residential Schools Agreement.
After leaving politics in 2009, Fontaine became a special advisor to the Royal Bank of Canada, Norton Rose and Trans Canada. He also serves as a director for several private and public companies and corporations. Catherine Clark spoke to Phil Fontaine in Ottawa.
Born into political life in Ottawa, Catherine Clark is no stranger to being in the public eye. As founding host of CPAC’s popular weekly television show Beyond Politics, Catherine interviews Members of Parliament, Premiers and people of influence to reveal the personal, human side of public life. Catherine is also a sought-after public speaker and emcee, and writes the “Giving Back” column for Ottawa at Home Magazine, profiling people who are improving the lives of their fellow citizens.