Update: May 21 — APTN has a report on the funderal service for Elijah Harper, which was held Monday in Winnipeg. 

Elijah Harper has died at the age of 64. Elijah Harper served as both an MP and MLA for Manitoba, and was an honorary chief for life of the Red Sucker Lake First Nation.

Harper reportedly died of heart failure related to complications from diabetes. 

His family made a brief statement Friday: “He will have a place in Canadian history, forever, for his devotion to public service and uniting his fellow First Nations with pride, determination and resolve. Elijah will also be remembered for bringing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together to find a spiritual basis for healing and understanding. We will miss him terribly and Love him forever.”

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba First Nations offered his condolences to the family of Elijah Harper, and reflected on his significance to Indigenous people in Canada:

As a residential school survivor, Elijah spent a large part of his life fighting for the rights of First Nations people of Canada and for the betterment of the human condition around the world while he was a Chief of Red Sucker Lake First Nation, worked with the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, a Member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, a Member of Parliament and as a Commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission. As a humber leader, he made Canadian history when he, with eagle feather in hand, said ‘No’ to the Meech Lake Accord. He felt that the Indigenous people of this country were not being recognized or being allowed to participate in a meaningful way in that constitutional process.

The Assembly of First Nations also issued a statement: 

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today offered condolences to the family and friends of Elijah Harper of Red Sucker Lake First Nation who passed away this morning in Ottawa.

“On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations National Executive, I offer sincere condolences to the family, friends and all First Nations in Manitoba region and across Canada mourning the loss of a tireless and courageous leader of our peoples,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.  “Elijah’s commitment and dedication to asserting and upholding First Nation rights and recognition has helped lay a solid foundation as this hard work continues today.  Leading two Sacred Assemblies focused on finding a spiritual basis for healing and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, Elijah’s drive and actions toward reconciliation will continue to be a legacy for First Nation and all Canadians as we move toward improved and renewed relationships based on mutual respect and recognition – two things he stood firm on in all of his work.”

Politicians and public personalities across Canada responded to the news of Harper’s passing on Friday. 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted, “Condolences to friends and family of Elijah Harper. His impact will be remembered by communities across Canada and the history books.”

Broadcaster Shelagh Rogers also took to social media to share her condolences: “Have just read Elijah Harper died. Had the honour of knowing this great man. Bow your head, Canada. RIP Elijah.”