Beauty queen breaks the mould with political views

Ashley Callingbull-Burnham and, left, the post to her Instagram page.

Ashley Callingbull-Burnham and, left, the post to her Instagram page.

SOME claim that beautiful women in beauty pageants are there to been seen and not heard. And if they are to be heard, they are supposed to espouse “world peace”.

However, Canadian Ashley Callingbull-Burnham, a 25-year-old First Nations model and actress from Alberta’s Cree Nation, has broken that mould after winning the Mrs Universe title recently.

Mrs Callingbull-Burnham, who resides on Paradise Island in The Bahamas, is using her new fame to urge aboriginal people in Canada to vote to oust the Conservatives in the federal election on October 19. Describing herself as a trained actress, model and motivational speaker, Mrs Callingbull-Burnham - who married her husband, Ryan, at Albany, western New Providence, in February – has attracted fierce criticism for her political outspokenness.

“Did you really think I was going to just sit there and look pretty? Definitely not,” she posted on Facebook. “I have a title, a platform and a voice to make change and bring awareness to First Nations issues here in Canada. I’m getting all this media attention and I’m going to use it to the best of my ability. I’m not your typical beauty queen. Look out ... I have a voice for change and I’m going to use it!”

In an interview with CBC’s ‘Power & Politics’ show last week, she said: “I believe that this government was created to work against us and not for us. There’s just so many problems with it for First Nations people. We’re always put on the back burner.”

Adequate housing, clean water, proper education and oil pipelines are all major issues for First Nations people, she said. “With the bills that have been passed,

we are being treated like terrorists if we’re fighting for our land and our water. It’s our right too, and now we’re being treated like terrorists if we do anything about it ... It’s ridiculous.”

Her critics have pointed to a tweet from her which

compared the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Adolf Hitler - “Stop Hitler. I mean Harper #idlenomore”. Her May 4 posting “I’m a Canadian/Bahamian. I only miss Canada because my family is there but I love residing in The Bahamas more” also drew comment, as did her hosting of a birthday party at her Ocean Club Estates home – once owned by baseball star Barry Bonds – for disgraced former world boxing champion Mike Tyson in July. Mrs Callingbull-Burnham has said she suffered physical and sexual abuse during her childhood and lived in poverty.

The newly-crowned Mrs Universe said that Mr Harper’s supporters were trying to bring her down over her past and judge her on the Idle No More rallies she had attended. “I am

here to speak for those who are mistreated by our government. My strength and the truth scares the Conservatives. Everyone rise up and speak the truth, now is the time! Let your voice be heard.”

She encouraged other First Nations people to register to vote and come out on election day. “We are in desperate need of a new Prime Minister. Fight for your rights before they get taken away. Please vote to make change. Say NO to Harper’s government,” she posted on Facebook. Mr Harper is widely accused of harming the interests of First Nations people in Canada during his decade in power.

Up to 30 per cent of First Nations children were removed from their families and placed in boarding school accommodation, where authorities tried to assimilate them into non-Aboriginal Canadian life. The system began with the passing of the Indian Act in 1876 and the last government-owned residential school was closed in 1996.

Mr Harper issued a national apology in June 2008 and the Canadian government delivered a $2bn settlement to compensate the victims of the policy.

One of the biggest scandals to rock Canada in recent decades is the murder and/or disappearance of more than 1,000 First Nations women between 1980 and 2012.

Mrs Callingbull-Burnham won the Mrs Universe contest in Minsk, Belarus, on August 29. Unlike many pageants, the Mrs Universe competition does not revolve around competitors’ physical appearance. There is no swimsuit portion and contestants are judged on their charity work, not their bikini bodies. This year, the competition featured extensive interviews and group discussions on how domestic violence affects women and children.

With her difficult childhood, Callingbull told CTV news that people often ask why she didn’t turn to drugs and alcohol. “What I did, was turn to my culture. I pushed myself into my culture, into my beliefs, and my traditions, and I used that to find myself and to heal.” She said she was the target of racist comments when she was a contestant in the 2010 Miss Canada pageant.

“When I first joined pageants, people didn’t expect me to win, just because of my background. They didn’t even want me to be there … and now I’m successful, I’m not the stereotype people perceive me to be. I’m educated. I do a lot of charitable work. I’m not involved with drugs and alcohol, I’m staying focused and I’m helping people at the same time.”


a2z 8 years, 7 months ago

? This story is all over the place.


sansoucireader 8 years, 7 months ago

Marrying your (Bahamian?) husband in western New Providence in February does not make you a Canadian-Bahamian. It just makes you a Canadian who married a Bahamian (he is a Bahamian, right?)


ThisIsOurs 8 years, 7 months ago

"Unless"...they bought a 500,000 or greater home...that policy is so weird. Pricing Bahamians out of the market fir home ownership is the strategic plan of two governments...


TruePeople 8 years, 7 months ago

Bribe get anything in Bahamas. I bet gay man could bribe his way into PC's bed if his $$ was up


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