December 9, 2009: Phil Fontaine To Receive First Annual Equitas Award For Human Rights Education

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Montréal – In honour of tomorrow’s international Human Rights Day, Equitas is pleased to announce that Phil Fontaine is the first recipient of the Equitas Award for Human Rights Education. This new annual juried award recognizes and celebrates exceptional contributions made in the field of human rights education. The award will be presented to Mr. Fontaine on March 18, 2010 at a gala cocktail event in Montréal. Mr. Fontaine is being recognized for his record of achievement in raising awareness concerning the importance of human rights to the lives of all Canadians. In particular, his work has helped to advance equality, social justice and respect for human dignity for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada. “Equitas has been playing a pivotal role in human rights education around the world for over 40 years and we feel privileged that Mr. Fontaine accepted to become the first recipient of the Equitas Award for Human Rights Education,” says Executive Director Ian Hamilton. “Today, on the eve of Human Rights Day, we are proud to share this story and highlight some of the outstanding work done by Phil Fontaine in promoting the human rights of Canada’s aboriginal communities.” Exceptional Achievements Phil Fontaine, a dedicated and highly respected figure in Canada, has been instrumental in facilitating change and advancement for First Nations people from the time he was first elected to public office as Chief, at the young age of 28. Fontaine has just retired following the completion of an unprecedented third term as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He is a proud member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba and still plays an active role in the support of his community. “ I am both humbled and honoured to be named the first recipient of the annual Equitas Award for Human Rights Education ”, says Phil Fontaine. “ My life’s work has been dedicated to closing the gap in quality of life of First Nation people in comparison to other Canadians. It has been a rewarding and challenging journey thus far. To have this passion recognized by such a respected organization as Equitas is a true honour. ” Mr. Fontaine has successfully helped to:

  • Raise global awareness of current and past injustices and human rights abuses experienced by Canada’s Aboriginal peoples
  • Open the way for a new and more constructive dialogue between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians on long-standing human rights abuses
  • Campaign for important changes in Canada’s policies and practices that reinforced social justice for and helped restore dignity to Aboriginal Peoples
  • Negotiate the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement including more than $5 billion in compensation for survivors and the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission [2005]
  • Negotiate of the Kelowna Accords, agreements designed to improve living conditions and education standards for Aboriginal people [2005]
  • Secure a public apology from the Government of Canada for abuses committed under the Indian Residential School system [2008]
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