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Elijah Harper

"Elijah was a great supporter and believer in digital health technology for Indigenous Peoples"

Elijah Harper (1949-2013) was born on March 3, 1949 at Red Sucker Lake in northeastern Manitoba, the son of Allan B. and Ethel Harper.  He was educated at residential schools in Norway House, Brandon and Birtle, Manitoba.  He  attended  secondary  schools  in  Garden  Hill  and  Winnipeg;  in  1971  and  1972.  As an Oji-Cree leader and residential school survivor, Elijah Harper has established his name in Canadian history as a constitutional maverick and continues to fight for the rights of Aboriginal people and the betterment of the human condition around the world. 

Harper studied at the University of Manitoba and quickly began work in community development, as supervisor for the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, and program analyst for the Manitoba Department of Northern Affairs. 

At the age of 29, Harper became the chief of the Red Sucker Lake Indian Band (now Red Sucker Lake First Nation) and three years later, was elected as Member of Legislative Assembly for the Rupertsland constituency making him the first member of a First Nation to serve in the Manitoba Legislature as an MLA. During this time, he served as Minister Without Portfolio Responsible for Native Affairs, and as Minister of Northern Affairs. 

While Harper was sitting as MLA, as opposition member, he made Canadian history in 1990 when had the bells of the legislature ring when he blocked the Canadian constitutional amendment known as the Meech Lake Accord due to insufficient participation, inclusiveness and recognition of Aboriginal people in the proposed constitutional amendment. This constitutional roadblock sent a strong message to all Canadians as a reminder that Aboriginal people need to be included in the process. 

During that same year, the Canadian Press voted him Newsmaker of the Year, was awarded the Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award – an honour shared by Nelson Mandela of South Africa, and was bestowed with the title of Honourary Chief for Life by Red Sucker Lake First Nation. In addition to those honours he received the commemorative medal of Canada from the Governor General for his dedication and commitment as a public servant and continues to earn honours and accolades for his work. 

In  January  1988,  he  was  appointed  by  the  Privy  Council  as Commissioner  for  the  Indian  Claims Commission; he resigned in October 2000.  After resigning from the Legislative Assembly (Manitoba) in 1992, he was elected as Member of Parliament for the Churchill constituency in northern Manitoba, one of the largest electoral districts in Canada in 1993. 

His commitment to human rights and betterment of the human condition has taken him around the world including Great Britain, the International Court of Justice at The Hague, the European Parliament in France, South Africa, the Americas and was involved in charitable work with World Vision in Tanzania, Kenya and the Republic of China (Taiwan).