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, MLA Thompson
May 21, 2013

Elijah Harper

I rise today to pay tribute to my former colleague and a colleague of other members of this House, Elijah Harper.

As I thought of Elijah this past weekend, I reflected on being elected in 1981, getting to know Elijah, many–at times we had the opportunity to travel throughout northern Manitoba with the veteran, Jay Cowan, with Jerry Storie and the late Harry Harapiak. We knew that Elijah was all about history. He was the first treaty MLA, the first First Nations Cabinet minister in this province. Much has been said about the history he made when it came to the Meech Lake Accord in 1990, but one thing I would reflect on is the fact that I can speak, having been the NDP House Leader at the time, on how Elijah Harper not only spoke for Aboriginal people, but he also spoke for the traditions of our parliamentary system of this Legislature. And I think in retrospect we should all, as Manitobans, regardless of our view of the debates of the day on Meech Lake, be proud of the fact that we did the right thing.

I also, Mr. Speaker, had the opportunity to visit with Elijah after his career in provincial politics. Many people, I don't think, realize how much of a icon Elijah was, not only here in Canada, but in places as far away as Taiwan where he visited, I believe, on upwards of a dozen times. And what really strikes me is we have a opportunity to reflect on Elijah, his incredible humility, his inner strength, that anyone that knows Red Sucker Lake will know why with–from his experience from that community.

What does strike me, Mr. Speaker, as time goes on, I think a lot of people will be looking to Elijah's impact, but I will point not just to his having said, no, in 1990, but the degree to which he said, yes, to a vision of hope for Aboriginal people. And when I see the new generation of leaders, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, when I see grass movements like Idle No More, I see and hear the vision and the words of Elijah Harper.

Elijah will be missed by many Manitobans, many people across this country. Mr. Speaker, I want to join with them in passing on our condolences to his family.