Public Service (1998)
The Aboriginal people of Canada owe Georges Erasmus a huge debt of gratitude. Without him the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) may not be the powerful and influential organization that it is today. When this Dene leader became National Chief of the AFN in 1985, it was floundering in a $3.6 million deficit, and lacked the support of First Nations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Atlantic provinces. But after serving two terms, the AFN became the undisputed voice of First Nations people across Canada as he guided it from 1985 to 1991 through tough constitutional talks and the Oka Crisis. Mr. Erasmus was often referred to as the “Eleventh Premier” in Confederation. Soon after, he was appointed Co-Chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and entrusted with giving a fair, accurate and comprehensive account of Aboriginal affairs in Canada. Throughout his life, he’s been recognized nationally and internationally for the critical role he’s played in raising the public’s awareness of the histories and concerns of Canada’s Aboriginal people. He’s a recipient of seven Honorary Doctorates of Law, and the Order of Canada.