By Chevi Rabbit
For Ponoka News
Reggie Rabbit is a newly elected councillor for Montana Cree Nation with a two-year diploma in criminal justice from Bow Valley College and a graduate from Grant MacEwan University Aboriginal Police Studies program.
Rabbit is starting his three-year term in a great way and plans to lead by example, following through on a pledge initiated by a human-rights advocate that challenged candidates to pledge 10 per cent of their yearly salary to afterschool youth programming and Initiatives.
In a social media, post Rabbit says, “I have personally committed 10 per cent of my salary for youth programming and Initiatives. This is to show you that I believe in you and love you. This will be called the Sapphirra and Easton Fund in memory of late Sapphirra and late Easton. You are loved and you all are so incredibly worth it.”
It’s believed to be the first time an elected First Nation leader from Alberta agreed to donate 10 per cent of their yearly salary to after-school youth programming and initiatives, and a first for Maskwacis.
In 2017, Rabbits’ niece committed suicide. He says that, “My niece was loved and was an aspiring model,” and that his niece’s best friend Shareena Ermineskin “won Miss Teenage Central Alberta pageant in 2017 and raised awareness for youth suicide in her name. ”
Rabbit says, “That’s one of the reasons why I decided to run in politics because more could have been done for my niece and other youth in his community.”
The Statistics Canada report entitled “Suicide among First Nations people, Métis and Inuit (2011-2016)” found that, overall, Indigenous people in Canada die by suicide at a rate three times higher than non-Indigenous Canadians.
He also explains that, “Over 70 per cent of Montana First Nation is either a youth or young adult” and that there is a need to keep them out of gangs and away from substance abuse issues.
He says, “I would like to support things like art therapy, music programs, crafts, anything with the arts” or “supporting traditional hunting initiatives for food sovereignty.”
He has a message for the young people out there. He says, “There is no such thing as can’t. Only I won’t. You can put your heart and mind into anything and accomplish it.”