Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

June 04, 2009 17:00 ET

Statement: The Retirement of Phil Fontaine as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 4, 2009) - The following statement was released by the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians:

Today Phil Fontaine announced that he will be retiring as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. This is truly a significant event, the symbolic passing of the torch from a man who has made a tremendous contribution to First Nations communities in particular, and all Canadians.

Under Phil Fontaine's passionate and persistent leadership, Aboriginal people have forged a strikingly new relationship with non-Aboriginal people, and with the Government of Canada. Were it not for his undying fervour and his commitment to correct the injustices of the past, it is unlikely that there would have been such a groundswell of compassion and forgiveness on the occasion of the Prime Minister's historic apology to survivors of the Indian Residential School system.

Phil is one such survivor. Torn from a loving and supportive Ojibway family, he spent ten years as a child in the Fort Alexander Indian Residential School in Manitoba where he witnessed the full brunt of the pain and suffering that has become our tragic shared legacy.

Far from becoming embittered, Phil channeled his dogged pursuit of justice into concrete actions that would ultimately transform our broken past into a relationship of healing and reconciliation. He has been instrumental in ensuring the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where the voices of survivors will be heard in a spirit of respect and forgiveness.

I have tremendous respect for the National Chief as a compassionate leader and a true Canadian. He has reached out to governments, businesses and individuals to build strong partnerships between First Nations people and other Canadians, partnerships that make a real difference in the lives of us all.

Phil is retiring from his role as National Chief, but we are all benefitting from his lifetime of servant-leadership. I am confident he will continue to be actively involved in important issues for our country, and I thank him for his indelible contribution to Canada.

Chuck Strahl

Contact Information

  • Office of the Honourable Chuck Strahl
    Ted Yeomans
    Director of Communications