Public Service (1996)
The idea of Aboriginal self-government became a political reality in Manitoba because of Phil Fontaine. As Chief of the Sagkeeng First Nation, Mr. Fontaine established the groundwork for future self-government by establishing local control of education, social and programs on his reserve. The effective delivery and management of those responsibilities gave credence to Aboriginal self-governance. Under the watchful eye of politicians, and Canadians in general, Mr. Fontaine’s initiative became a benchmark for future applications. His recent agreement with the Department of Indian Affairs to dismantle regional programs within Manitoba and place authority in the hands of individual First Nations in an extension of his initial efforts in Sagkeeng. He has effectively taken a community initiative and placed it firmly, and notably, within a national perspective. A graduate of the University of Manitoba with a degree in Political Science, he is currently serving his third term as Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. He has been involved in his people’s political advancement since 1966 and has experience with the Company of Young Canadians, the Canadian Indian Youth Council, the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, the Department of Indian Affairs and the Assembly of First Nations. From a shy childhood and youth, he has emerged as a vital and recognizable fixture on the national Aboriginal political scene. He received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Pubic Service because of his commitment to the self-governing future of Aboriginal peoples across Canada.