Carleton Presents Aboriginal Leader Phil Fontaine with Honorary Doctorate
Ottawa - Carleton University has honoured Phil Fontaine with a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, in recognition of outstanding accomplishments and leadership on issues of Aboriginal societies in Canada and internationally.
Fontaine is the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). He is the longest-serving National Chief in AFN history, elected for an unprecedented three terms. A citizen of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, he has been instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of human rights for all Canadians, and First Nations peoples in particular.
“I am so very honoured to have been chosen to receive your honorary degree for, in selecting me, you have honoured many others as well,” Fontaine said during his address to the graduating class. “The thousands of First Nations women, men and children whose names are absent from the history books, from lists of graduates, from lists of honorary degree recipients, whose stories have been lost in the slow eddies of time but whose courage and grace helped to bring me to where I am today - I stand on their shoulders.”
Fontaine led the successful resolution and settlement of the 150-year Indian residential school tragedy, which ended with a historic apology from the Canadian government. He also signed the Declaration of Kinship and Cooperation of the Indigenous and First Nations of North America and was the first indigenous leader to address the Organization of American States.
“Graduates, you have worked very hard to get to today,” said Fontaine. “For years, you've been buying, trading and selling in the marketplace of ideas. Your pockets are full of intellectual capital. A career or a job, while important, should not be the only place you spend your intellectual capital.
“My hope is that many of you will commit to reconciliation in one way or another so that the core problems at the heart of this nation can start to be addressed in a meaningful and just way. A lot will depend on the decisions you make and the leadership you provide.”
Fontaine holds 14 honorary doctorates from Canadian and American universities. In 1996, he was honoured with the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and in 2010 he received the Equitas Human Rights Education Award, which recognizes and celebrates exceptional contributions made in the field of human rights education. He is a Member of the Order of Manitoba, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and he has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth ll Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Currently, he acts as a senior advisor to Norton Rose Canada LLP, counsel to Chieftain Metals, counsel to Avalon Rare Metals, special adviser to the Royal Bank of Canada and special adviser to Trans Canada Pipelines.