A Letter sent to the Chancellor, President and Board of Governors of Nipissing University.
Dear Chancellor and President, & Board of Governors:
I am writing to present you my vehement opposition to the decision to give former Premier Mike Harris a honourary degree from Nipissing University. Such a decision is a blatant disrespect of Aboriginal people and will do irreparable harm to the established relationships between the University and First Nations people.
There is a simple and fundamental reason for this position. For First Nation people, Mike Harris is the most hated politician in the history of government. The hostile relationship between the Harris government and Ontario’s First Nations was a significant contributor to the death of Dudley George at Ipperwash on Sept. 6, 1995. As a long-time political advisor to the Union of Ontario Indians, in my opinion, this hostile relationship is also the single greatest contributing factor in current state of relationship between the Crown and First Nations. Simply put, bestowing Mr. Harris with this honour is such a blatant disrespect of First Nations views and sensitivities, it threatens to open wounds and undermine efforts towards healing and reconciliation between native and non-native people.
If indeed this degree is bestowed to Mr. Harris, as an influential member of the community, I will work to ensure that Nipissing First Nation withdraws any and all representation, support, commitments and all future student funding to Nipissing University. I will formally present this request to our Chief and Council.
As a recent trusted advisor to the Union of Ontario Indians, I will also take similar steps to sponsor a resolution calling for similar measures from the 42-member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation. As you know, Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee has released a statement condemning this action by your university.
Personally, I am hurt and angered by this turn of events. First Nations have always considered Nipissing University to be a noble and respectful institution. Just a year ago, I was on hand as Nipissing University presented former Grand Council Chief John Beaucage with a similar honour. As his Chief of Staff and most trusted advisor, I was overwhelmed and touched by the honour given to him. Indeed, the programs and support offered to Aboriginal people is seen as second-to-none by many communities. In one single blow and with one very bad decision, these positive perceptions of Nipissing University will be undone… and replaced by the same anger, sadness and the pain associated with Harris’ blood-stained regime.
Nipissing First Nation
Cell: (705) 498-5250