Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Phil Fontaine

Larry Phillip (Phil) Fontaine, OC, OM, former three-term national chief of the Assembly of First nations and lead negotiator of the historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement, former chief of the Sagkeeng First Nation, and former chief commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the law school’s Convocation ceremony June 9, 2017 for his outstanding commitment to community service and advancing Indigenous rights.

A staunch, passionate advocate for Indigenous peoples, and a residential schools survivor of physical, sexual and psychological abuse, Fontaine catapulted the tragic story of Canada’s degrading and shameful mistreatment of Indigenous peoples to national awareness.

In 1990, he was one of the first to speak openly about his experiences, and was integral in encouraging others to come forward. The successful negotiation of the Settlement Agreement in 2005—the largest and most expansive agreement in Canadian history—meant the resolution of more than 20 class actions and more than 15,000 individual claims relating to the 150-year period of injustices. His ardent and persistent work in raising the national consciousness about Canada’s sordid past helped pave the way for healing and for an improved future in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, through the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and financial compensation.

Born in Sagkeeng First Nation on the Fort Alexander Reserve in Manitoba, Fontaine was inspired by his mother’s political activity and eventually became his community’s chief for two consecutive terms. He also served as a regional director general with the federal government in the Yukon, was Manitoba regional chief then grand chief for the Assembly of First Nations, and ultimately the national chief for an unprecedented three terms. He has also been chief commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission, special adviser to the Royal Bank of Canada, special adviser to what is now Norton Rose Fulbright, and director at numerous Canadian companies and organizations.

Currently, Fontaine is president of his company, Ishkonigan Consulting and Mediation Inc., which provides services to Indigenous communities, governments and the corporate sector. A political science graduate of the University of Manitoba, Fontaine counts 13 honorary degrees among his many accolades and awards, including the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and the Human Rights Education Award, Equitas.