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Harold Cardinal

Lifetime (2001)

Many dream of one day writing a book. Harold Cardinal has done more than that. He wrote ‘the’ book. It was the late 1960s and Canada had a new Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, who promised Canadians a “Just Society”. A year later, his government released a White Paper on Aboriginal affairs. It called for the abolition of many Aboriginal rights and an end to Ottawa’s relationship with First Nations. Dr. Cardinal, then in his 20s, went to his typewriter and began to pound the keys in anger and disgust. He fired back with The Unjust Society. It forced the government to retreat and Dr. Cardinal followed up with The Red Paper. In the aftermath, he personally engaged in some of the first-ever meetings held directly between a Canadian cabinet and Aboriginal leaders. Dr. Cardinal’s work proved a watershed event that brought attention and change to policies that would have eroded the integrity of Aboriginal life. His contributions didn’t end there. Dr. Cardinal studied law at prestigious universities like Harvard, was President of the Indian Association of Alberta, Chief of the Sucker Creek Band, Vice-Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and a Treaty 8 negotiator. Recently, Dr. Cardinal was Indigenous Scholar in Residence at the University of Alberta’s Law School and is completing his doctorate in law through the University of British Columbia. Dr. Cardinal’s very presence helped Canadians at large opt for pluralism and tolerance during a very crucial time. He is a true Aboriginal – and national – treasure.