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UPDATED: Cree Woman Wins Beauty Pageant, Immediately Turns Spotlight to Stephen “Missing and Murdered Women Not a Priority” Harper

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.

Mrs. Canada Ashley Burnham celebrates after being crowned Mrs. Universe during the Mrs. Universe 2015 pageant final in Minsk on August 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MAXIM MALINOVSKYMAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Mrs. Canada Ashley Burnham celebrates after being crowned Mrs. Universe during the Mrs. Universe 2015 pageant final in Minsk on August 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MAXIM MALINOVSKYMAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images

“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?”

Source: Moon Prism Power

Source: Moon Prism Power

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.

Powwow Selfie. Source: Ashley Burham/Instagram

Powwow Selfie. Source: Ashley Burham/Instagram

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.

Callingbull Facebook


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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88 thoughts on “UPDATED: Cree Woman Wins Beauty Pageant, Immediately Turns Spotlight to Stephen “Missing and Murdered Women Not a Priority” Harper

  1. Everyone likes a winner and when that happens everyone forgets they are one.

    Wish you all the best but do not wish you the loss of individuality that such “change” fosters and the worst haters out there exploit to destroy the security built around you.

    Keep the positives untouched and growth can happen without such anger. Diss everything to make bold statements encouraging radical anything and you become American.

    Learn from America. The answer is kindness. Kindly ask the government for what you need before you judge your PM. If you don’t give him the chance, you are becoming the haters. Haters know no political party anymore than lovers.

    Be cautious. Good luck.


    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Brad. You’re quite right – we need more kindness and patience in politics. However, I think that because Indigenous Canadians and Americans have a recent and continued history of social oppression, political repression and outright genocide, we cannot expect or ask that community to go to the government with kindness. Rather, I think government must reflect and work hard to redress inequities, past and present.

      • I understand, really I do. It’s not at all to say that your anger and frustration isn’t valid but to acknowledge that you’ve survived it.

        The past is the past and no one wants the worst of it brought into the present or future.

        You seem to be a very good writer. I hope you’ll use your ability to write out what you want the PM to hear, acknowledge and adjust for your communities within Canada. Keep in mind that anger though isn’t the same as the squeaky wheel; you’re more likely to be heard simply because you won this contest and it probably would mean a lot if the PM knows how you feel about the title is representative of the nation’s best. If you let the gov see the best in your words they will understand the tears. If you have a plan or specific ideas that you want implemented, they will listen. If you want to rant, they might respond with the # of a shrink and you will have lost your cause. That is why I suggested being cautious.

        The emotions you feel are not invalid. Just use them like we all do; in arts might be the way to go and you can ask for a special grants to fund specific projects within your communities and ours as well that will represent your new title.

        Be a leader. Don’t be American.

        Again, I wish you all the best with your very special endeavor.

      • ………..but what, exactly, do you think writing this piece was doing? Is making a statement in a public forum on a website that discusses culture and politics not ‘the arts’?

      • Thanks, Brad. But I should be clear on one point: I’m not Indigenous, but rather an ally who stands in solidarity with Indigenous women.

    • If you claim to understand, you should be aware that these issues are not of the past – they’re very much alive and current.

    • I don’t understand what you mean by being “American”, Brad. Why don’t you explain it in a slightly more paternalistic way so women can understand it better without getting angry?

    • Hi my name is Clayton Kuster and i am in full support of miss universe . its national sibling week and i have the best one i could ever wish for . My idol , my best friend , and i want to be a father just like my brother .

      Your brother is you first male friend in life . No one understands your craziness like your brother . Even if you don’t get together as much as you would like , he always remains your friend … while people come and go in your life your brother will always be in your heart for a lifetime .Its national sibling week so repost this if your have love in your heart for your brother or sister .with love and respect .

      clayton kuster

      ps if i had a sister i would be more protective of her than my brother and the daughters of the tribes in my province are going missing or worse . wake up harper or your going to lose the next election

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  3. Beauty stems from within. This lady has shown hers by speaking out on what she knows to be true and by being true to her convictions. This isn’t about nations but about peoples and fair treatment is fair in any nation. Keep it coming brave and wonderful people!

  4. Either she’s a sex object or a politico for women’s rights. Pick one, you can’t be both.

    There are many many aboriginal women who are great role models and do speak out for aboriginal women’s rights, and walk their talk: Bridget Perrier, Cherry Smiley, Carla Robinson, Connie Walker to name a few.

    • Thanks for these comments. These women are truly amazing, and I would add artist Christi Belcourt to the mix for her brilliant work on Walking With Our Sisters. But I think that Ashley is equally amazing. For me, sexuality and politic advocacy aren’t mutually exclusive.

  5. Wishing Ashley great strength and health. You have chosen quite the mountain to fight on and will need much resilience! May I just say that I find some of the comments made regarding your win for Mrs. Universe to be disgusting. It is unfortunate that social media has not found a way to weed out the ignorant!

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