Larry Phillip Fontaine, Anishinabe from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, is an exemplary leader with a proven track record of getting results in the advancement of First Nations people and recognition of Treaty/Aboriginal rights at the local, regional and national levels.
In July 2006, Phil Fontaine was re-elected to his third term as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, with a strong mandate to improve the lives of First Nations people through the Getting Results agenda. The results:
First Nations Political Agreement on Indian Residential Schools – negotiation of a $4 billion federal compensation package on behalf of 86,000 former students, along with the establishment of a truth and reconciliation process;
First Nations Political Accord on the Recognition and Implementation of First Nations Government – addressing broad issues of self-government, a new fiscal transfer system, implementation of Treaties and restoration of lands and resource rights;
AFN Renewal Commission – 47-recommendation report on improving the political structure of the AFN, including a universal First Nations vote for National Chief;
First Ministers Meeting on the Future of Health Care – securing a $700-million investment for Aboriginal health and ongoing efforts for the control and administration by First Nations;
First Ministers Meeting on Aboriginal Issues – First Nations-led discussions at the First Ministers Meeting in Kelowna saw federal, provincial and territorial leaders agree to a 10-year challenge to eradicate First Nations poverty in Canada.
Phil was first elected as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 1997. During his term, he helped negotiate the federal government’s Statement of Reconciliation [in response to the Royal Commission’s Report on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP)], First Nations involvement in the federal government’s Clarity Bill, and the development of the Certified General Accountants of Canada’s Memorandum of Understanding. He helped build bridges between Indigenous people of North America through the Declaration of Kinship and Cooperation and was the first Native leader to address the Organization of American States. His belief in creating an inclusive Assembly of First Nations ensured that all information was accessible in both French and English languages for the first time.
Following his term, Phil was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission. During this time, he oversaw the resolution of an outstanding 1907 land claim that resulted in a $94.6 million settlement for Kahkewistihaw First Nation of Saskatchewan.
Phil’s political career began as a youth activist with the Canadian Indian Youth Council. At the age of 28, he was first elected Chief of Sagkeeng, serving two consecutive terms. Under his leadership, the community was the first to establish three milestones among Canada’s First Nations – a locally controlled education system, child and family services, and the first on-reserve alcohol treatment centre.
Motivated by his dedication to his people, Phil’s next stop in his career path was to take a different approach, by becoming Regional Director-General of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) in the Yukon. He next completed a degree in Political Science at the University of Manitoba in 1980, before becoming a special advisor for the Southeast Resource Development Council.
Phil’s passion for improving the lives of his people led him back to politics, where he was elected for three consecutive terms as Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Working with Manitoba’s First Nations, Grand Chief Fontaine played a key role in the development of Manitoba’s Framework Agreement Initiative, the signing of an Employment Equity Agreement with 39 federal agencies, and in the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord.
As Grand Chief, he was the first Aboriginal leader to publicly expose the shocking abuses that existed in secrecy within the Indian residential school system by sharing his personal experiences during his 10 years at these federally-run schools.
In recognition of his many accomplishments, Phil has been awarded Honorary Doctorate of Law degrees from Royal Military College, Brock University, the University of Windsor and Lakehead University. He was made a Member of the Order of Manitoba in 2004. In 2005, Phil was selected number one as the Top 50 Capital People of 2005 by Ottawa Life Magazine. One of his greatest honours came from this own people when he received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his work in the public service.
Throughout his political career, Phil has remained closely connected to his culture and traditions, and is a fluent speaker of the Ojibway language. A family man, he is the proud father of two children and Mishoom to five grandchildren. In his spare time, Phil enjoys listening to music and is an avid runner.
Peigi L. Wilson, Secretary/Treasurer
Peigi is Métis. She was raised in Dundas, Ontario. She guided and taught canoeing to help pay for university, where she earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts Double Major in History and Political Science from the University of Western Ontario in 1984 and a law degree from the University of Victoria in 1990.
In 1992, following her call to the Bar of Ontario, Peigi moved to Bangkok, Thailand, where she wrote for business and legal publications on Thai business and environmental law. In 1994, Peigi moved to Nairobi, Kenya where she worked at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Environmental Law Centre. At UNEP, Peigi focused on international trade and water law. While overseas, she traveled extensively throughout Asia and Africa.
Upon her return to Canada in 1998, Peigi turned her focus to national law and policy, working for one year each at Indian and Northern Affairs and Environment Canada. She joined the Assembly of First Nations in 2000, serving from 2004-2006 as the Director of Environmental Stewardship.
Over the years, Peigi has worked on a wide variety of Aboriginal, international, and environmental issues. At the international level, in addition to trade and water law, Peigi has worked on issues of climate change, biological diversity, hazardous wastes, respect for traditional knowledge, and intellectual property rights. At the federal level, Peigi has supported the reform of all major environmental laws to ease their negative impact on Aboriginal peoples, and the implementation of law that respects Aboriginal peoples’ rights and interests.
Peigi is currently pursuing a Master of Laws at the University of Ottawa and does freelance environmental research and writing. She lives in Ottawa and at Crow Lake, Ontario with her husband.
Roger Augustine, Chair
Mr. Augustine, a Mi'kmaq from New Brunswick, was Chief of Eel Ground First Nation from 1980 to 1996. Prior to that, he served on council for four years. The AFN Regional Chief for First Nation communities in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, he has been involved in politics, economic development, and the environment for over 30 years.
During his time as a community leader, Mr. Augustine co-founded the Atlantic Policy Congress (APC), which is the political voice for First Nations Chiefs in Atlantic Canada. He also co-founded the North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council. In 1981, Mr. Augustine was one of several dozen representative Chiefs from across Canada who signed the historic 1981 Declaration of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
Mr. Augustine considers one of his greatest career accomplishments to be in the field of addictions treatment. After receiving specialized credentials from St. Francis Xavier University in Drug and Alcohol Education, Mr. Augustine made enormous strides in dealing with addiction in his community by introducing a curriculum for Eel Ground Federal School. During his tenure as Chairman of National Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board he received several awards in his field. He is still chairman of the Rising Sun Treatment Centre at Eel Ground. He is also a trained mediator (Alternative Dispute Resolution, University of Waterloo), a member of the ADR Institute of Ontario, and has used his skills in crisis response situations.
In 1995, Mr. Augustine successfully negotiated a $90 million partnership between eight New Brunswick First Nations communities and U.S. lumber companies. Two years later, the First Nations received a $2.5 million profit.
Garry McLean passed away on Tuesday, Feb 19th at the age of 67. Garry served as a CIER board member from December 2018 to February 2019. Garry was born on Lake Manitoba First Nation and spoke fluently in the Saulteaux Ojibway language.
Garry is remembered as an Indigenous leader, mentor, and political adviser to numerous Grand Chiefs in Manitoba and was the lead complainant in the Residential Day School’s case which reached an Agreement-in-Principle with Canada in December 2018. Garry was a strong supporter of CIER’s mission and he is dearly missed.