OTTAWA -- Former national chief Phil Fontaine believes the Idle No More movement offers a chance to engage Canadians on aboriginal issues and make some real change in this country, but he says the only way forward is if chiefs and the Idle No More leaders join forces.
Fontaine today will share a stage with Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae for a conversation about aboriginal issues and where Canada goes from here. The event at the University of Winnipeg will be a rare opportunity to hear Fontaine weigh in on the current situation facing aboriginals.
Rae will later join Free Press political columnist Dan Lett for a live and interactive chat at 2 p.m. at the News Café, 237 McDermot Avenue, to discuss the future of aboriginal Canadians, the future of the Grits and his farewell tour across Canada as leader. You can also watch the interview live here.
Fontaine, 68, was the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations from 1997 to 2000 and again from 2003 until 2009. He has generally stayed out of the public eye since he stepped down.
Fontaine told the Free Press Tuesday there have been times in the past where an event or national discussion has brought aboriginal issues to the forefront, citing the Oka Crisis in 1990 and the Meech Lake Accord discussions and Manitoba chief and MLA Elijah Harper's famous vote against it.
"We've had situations like this before," said Fontaine. "The challenge is to maintain the momentum. Included in that challenge is whether it becomes a collaborative undertaking with the chiefs of Canada. I believe there has to be a joining of forces, chiefs working Idle No More and vice versa."
Rae said today's event at the University of Winnipeg will take the format of a conversation, with Fontaine in front of an audience. He said he thinks where we need to start is by assessing exactly where we really are.
The event today takes place from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the atrium of the Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex at the University of Winnipeg. It is open to the public.