An Open Letter to Stephen Harper – Aaron Paquette


She is in the wind - Image by Aaron PaquetteEditorial – An Open Letter to Stephen Harper: I’m writing to you tonight because you need help. I don’t mean that in some snide or sarcastic way, I mean it with deep sincerity. I don’t believe in embarrassment and shaming. We all need help. I know you may not agree with me, but that’s okay.

We’re allowed to disagree with each other, it’s one of the great things about a civil, caring society. We disagree and then roll up our sleeves and get to work making a better future.

I understand your vision of the future. I understand why you hold your vision. I get it.

First Nations populations are booming. The cost of honouring agreements with First Nations is climbing with the population. The long term view is pretty clear: with burgeoning numbers there will come a tipping point where the status quo in regard to funding will be impossible to maintain.

You are not the first politician to see this future and start the wheels rolling on assimilation and you won’t be the last.

Assimilation. We might as well be frank.

According to the ideology in which you appear to operate assimilation is the only clear path. It gets people off reservations and out of remote areas into communities where they can be self-sufficient, have access to all the benefits every Canadian citizen is promised: Health Care, Education, the expectation of Clean Water, a social security net and then the Government of Canada is free to develop lands, add increase to the public coffers and reduce spending.

It’s a quick fix mentality in a world of complexity.

Here’s where the help comes in.

I want to tell you plainly that there is no quick fix.

Aaron PaquetteI agree the status quo is not possible. I also agree that something has to give. Change is desperately needed. I will also explain to you that assimilation in this lifetime will never happen. I know the plan is to erode, erode, erode. I know that the conditions of Attawapiskat and like communities can be seen as political opportunity. The sad part of this saga is that it was caused by one of two scenarios: Premeditation or Incompetence on the part of the government. Both of which are embarrassing to our country.

I propose a better way, a way we can be proud of.

I propose an immediate focus on the children of First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Not in a vapid, optimistic sense but as a practical and compassionate response to the trouble we all see brewing on the horizon.

Let us educate our youth. Let us feed them, clothe them and give them good health. Let’s provide them with all the tools they need in this generation so that they know how to provide those same tools to the next.

Assimilation is not necessary when you have a people who for the first time since colonization raise a generation free of outside, systemic abuse.

Now, I am writing with the assumption that the game plan as a Conservative government does not include destroying the ecology of the country we live in or in reverting to a live and let die mentality toward our neighbours. I am assuming that future seats on Corporate Boards or personal financial investments do not colour or prejudice our legislation.

I am assuming that you care about your fellow being.

I am assuming you want your grandchildren to grow up in a country where they don’t have to be ashamed.

I am assuming you have a good heart. And I think you do. I just think that politics and ideologies can rip the soul out of a man. I think a man will try to convince himself that he’ll find his soul later, when all the dirty business is finished. I don’t believe he will.

I believe he has to nurture his heart or all his true strength fades, and he is grey and small and petty.

As many in your party believe in their version of a Christian God, I believe in the innate goodness of people. I believe in the life we are gifted from this good earth. I know that intellect and purpose married to humility and gratitude will always lead a man to great things.

What a sad life it would be to rise to lead a nation and then lead with no honour, no truth, no joy. So, instead of scaring your people with darkness, inspire them with light.

We are a nation of conflicting ideas but we are also a nation of hardy, practical souls who would rather lift their neighbour up than step on his neck when he’s down. We build together. That’s our way.

This is the help I offer:

Help the children of this country and you will no longer need to fix anything.

The investment in our people today will mean freedom tomorrow. All the things you hope to defeat: crime, social dependence, economic failure…a good leader with a good heart knows that punishment is ineffective and self defeating in the long run.

Nurture your children and they will make you proud. Remember your responsibility to the Seventh Generation.

Stephen, you are at the crossroads.

What will you leave as your legacy?

An apology from one side of your mouth and contempt from the other?

Or will you go down in history as the man who finally lived in truth and changed the world?

People will mock me for having faith in you, I know. But I will have faith in you anyway.

Have faith in us.

Do the correct thing. Make the children of this land your number one priority and I promise you that you will cherish the day you decided to become a friend to Many Nations.

Chief Speaker, be silent and listen to the cries of the children. Listen to the promptings of your heart. Listen to the whispers of compassion. Listen to the yearning for hope.

Chief Speaker, be silent.

Chief Speaker, be silent and honour the people.

And they will always honour you.

Your friend,

Aaron Paquette

Aaron Paquette

Aaron is a Nationally recognized First Nations Artist who has taken the lessons of his art and life and begun to share them as part of his social responsibility and desire to be a positive agent of change and good role model.

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Aaron Paquette is one of Canadaʼs premiere First Nations artists known for his bright colours, strong lines and for sharing new ways of looking at age-old experiences and beliefs. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Aaron has been creating art for the past 20 years. He apprenticed and has become both a Cathedral Stained Glass artist and a Goldsmith, influences of which can be seen in the line and structure of his paintings – displayed in various galleries throughout the country. Aaron is also an experienced facilitator, trainer and engaging public speaker. He has worked with the Royal Conservatory’s adjunct program -Learning Through the Arts- as both a Mentor Artist and as the First Nations Representative and Consultant in Alberta. This experience focused on providing the skills and background knowledge for infusing differentiated learning within the general curriculum in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Aaron has collaborated with Ministries, Teachers’ Associations, and various community members and teachers, providing region wide teacher workshops and in- school experiences related to the art curriculum that also provide an FNMI perspective. Through this collaboration, he also provides student workshops, professional development sessions and artist-in- residence programs. A skilled communicator, Aaron has worked with Alberta Education in reconciliation, specifically between communities and school administration. He has worked for years with the Edmonton Public School Board with both in-class sessions and special sessions for promising young artists. The Catholic School Boards in the Central and Northern Alberta region have also enlisted Aaron in many projects ranging from elementary school visits that tie art into curricular learning to mural painting with High School students.