Canada needs a new prime minister, says Ashley Burnham.
After first striking a blow for representation of Indigenous women in the mainstream media, the newly crowned Mrs. Universe, from Cree Enoch First Nations in Alberta, made politics her first order of business.
Canada’ s new crush – the first First Nations and Canadian woman to ever win the Mrs. Universe pageant – set the political sphere ablaze when she called on Indigenous people to vote out Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“It’s so crucial that we vote a new prime minister in, because we need a new prime minister,” Burnham (formerly Callingbull) told Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). “I believe we need to fight for our rights and we need to vote.”
“This government is very controlling of our people and soon enough our rights might be taken away,” Burnham continues. “And if I have that voice to bring awareness, I’m going to use it.”
It’s a statement that could earn her the hostility of the current Harper Government. But no matter: in her pursuit of the Mrs. Universe crown, the badass beauty queen has already had to put up with the full might of the Interweb’s hate and shaming spiral, with onlookers mocking her: “What will her talent be, drinking Lysol? Signing welfare cheques with her toes?”
Side-bar: So much for Canada smugly calling itself post-racial – take a long, hard look: this is what ignorance and racism looks like. But I (only mildly) digress.
As any woman in the public eye will tell you: if you can ignore your haters online, you can take on the Harper government.
And the Harper Government has been particularly prickly thorn in the side of Indigenous groups in Canada. From Harper himself referring to an inquiry into the more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada as “not a priority;” his refusal to implement any of the 94 recommendations put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools; a roll-back on meager environmental rights of Indigenous communities in the face of foreign-owned mining and oil companies; ignoring Idle No More activists; cuts to First Nations health research; failure to address a fledgling Northern nutrition program; and, oh yeah, failure to design a quality Aboriginal education bill. Ad nauseam.
So amidst such an appalling record on human rights and the rising spin in the electoral conversation, Ashley Burnham’s bright, fresh voice comes as a powerful reminder that this upcoming election isn’t just about Justin Trudeau’s hair or making sweet, sweet love to the middle class’ economic ego, but rather the health, education, safety, dignity and fundamental rights of millions of our fellow citizens.
Rather, Burnham’s voice defies the ugly, violent stereotype of what Canada holds to be true of an Indigenous woman. Her voice is one of authenticity, of experience – the voice of a woman who survived sexual abuse as a child, poverty, the daughter of a woman who survived domestic violence – and who turned to her rich cultural heritage to overcome, telling Canada AM, “I pushed myself into my culture, into my beliefs and my traditions, and I used that to find myself and to heal.”
To be sure, Canada has countless voices like Ashley Burnham. But, setting aside the often antiquated nature of beauty pageants, Burnham’s queenly role on the international stage will give ‘Indian Country’ the shining platform, the echo chamber and megaphone from which she will launch a populist, grassroots cris-de-coeur for us all to finally listen to the countless injustices committed against her Indigenous brothers and sisters.
And so, my fellow Canuckians: it’s time for us to pipe down, and listen.
Newsflash! Breaking News!
Ashley Burnham has responded to criticism that she has been “too political” for the first day of her reign. Her response: flawless.
And so for anyone who might be tempted to dismiss Burnham or relegate her to the traditional role of a pageant queen, she was again proven the strength of her voice and the depth of her conviction. #TeamAshley all the way!
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