It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Chief Tom Bressette. On behalf of everyone at the First Nations Tax Commission, I wish to send my deepest condolences to his family, the members of Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point, and everyone lucky enough to call “Big Tom” a friend.
We fondly remember his larger-than-life presence, personality, laugh, voice, and leadership. But he also has left behind a larger-than-life legacy for his family, community, Ontario First Nations, and all Indigenous people in Canada. Tom was a munitions expert in the US Army. He was a skilled tradesman. He was an addictions counsellor. He was an entrepreneur. He served on the Kettle and Stony Point council for four years and was Chief for 19 years. He was the Assembly of First Nations Ontario Vice Regional Chief from 1997 until 2000.
I began to work on the AFN National Fiscal Relations Table with Chief Bressette while he was Ontario Vice Chief. Together we led the development and passage of the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act. His unwavering support for the FSMA (now FMA) was not popular in Ontario but he attended every meeting – always outnumbered by opponents – to fearlessly defend it as something that would benefit First Nations across Canada. The legislation passed in 2005 and is now used by over half of all First Nations in Canada, generating millions of dollars in First Nation community revenues, financing billions in infrastructure and community initiatives, and creating thousands of jobs.
Chief Bressette led his community through the lpperwash tragedy and the eventual settlement, which set a precedent for specific claims agreements for all First Nations in Canada. He re-established First Nation tax jurisdiction in 2016 for his community that not only helped improve community services, infrastructure, and financial management, but also set a precedent that is now being used by other Ontario First Nations. I will remember Chief Bressette as much more than a visionary and fearless leader. I will remember him for his kindness, sense of humor, wise counsel, and strength. He was the best type of friend you could have. When working with Tom he always had your back, and you felt like you could do anything. And, as is evident by his lengthy list of accomplishments, he did.
His family has lost a father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and cousin. The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point have lost a great Chief. First Nations across this country have lost his leadership. And so many of us have lost a good friend and a great man impossible to replace. He will be greatly missed. Safe journey my good friend.
C.T. (Manny) Jules
First Nations Tax Commission