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Snapshots in History: May 17: Remembering Elijah Harper

May 18, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)


On May 17 and beyond, let us take a moment to remember the late aboriginal leader and politician Elijah Harper (Born: March 3, 1949; Died: May 17, 2013), who played a pivotal role in the defeat of the 1987 Meech Lake Accord. He served as Band Chief for the Red Sucker Lake Band (now Red Sucker Lake First Nation) during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Rupertsland in Manitoba, representing the New Democratic Party in government and in opposition from 1981 to 1992, including stints as Minister for Northern Affairs and Minister responsible for Native Affairs. He switched to federal politics in 1993, winning election as a Member of Parliament for Churchill to the Liberal Party of Canada caucus. He was defeated in the 1997 and 2000 federal elections.

Nationally, however, Elijah Harper arguably became best known for his principled stand against the Meech Lake Accord in 1990 (as it lacked input from Canada’s First Nations) by denying the unanimous consent that was required for the Manitoba Legislature to introduce a motion to ratify the accord as a step towards amending the Constitution Act, 1982, in an attempt to gain Québec’s acceptance of the constitution. Consequently, then-Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells, an opponent of the Meech Lake Accord, cancelled a similar vote in that province’s House of Assembly as provincial unanimity would not be achieved, a prerequisite for accepting the accord.

Consider the following titles available from Toronto Public Library collections:


Elijah Harper / Rebecca Szulhan, 2008. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction.


Elijah: no ordinary hero / Pauline Comeau, 1993. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.


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