In the October 16, 1998 edition of the Globe and Mail, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) was defined by its Grand Chief, Phil Fontaine, as follows:
"The Assembly of First Nations is not a governing body for the First Nations in Canada...It is an organization that represents the chiefs of 633 sovereign First Nations communities in Canada. The Assembly lobbies the federal government for the chiefs in Canada and tries to ensure that the federal government lives up to its treaty undertakings. The Department of Indian Affairs is the government body that dispenses funds for initiatives..."Significantly, Mr. Fontaine was a former senior employee of the Department of Indian Affairs. So was former AFN BC Vice Chief Wendy Grant John, who is now the number 2 DIA official in BC, and is married to BC First Nations Summit (FNS) Grand Chief Ed John. The FNS is spearheading those "First Nations" involved in the BC Treaty process, and recently promised to campaign for the BC NDP government in the next election.
- Phil Fontaine, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations (page A22, letters)
Given the parameters defined by the Indian Act, a "First Nation" "chief" is essentially an administrative unit of the Canadian Government, so Mr. Fontaine's use of the word "sovereign" is interesting.
In any case, those "chiefs" passed a resolution (19/97) which Mr. Fontaine seems unwilling to implement:
"Whereas in both the Gustafsen Lake and Ipperwash incidents, the actions of government and police officials in using excessive force against First Nations citizens is unacceptable; and
"Whereas governments are attempting to prevent the public from hearing the truth about these incidents;
"Therefore be it resolved that the Confederacy of Nations supports the demand for a full and comprehensive public inquiry into all aspects of the Gustafsen Lake and Ipperwash matters; and
Be it Further Resolved That the Assembly of First Nations will take full responsibility for establishing a mechanism to ensure that a public inquiry takes place into the actions of the provincial and federal governments at Gustafsen Lake, BC and Ipperwash Ontario."
Phil Fontaine - National Chief