Chief Theresa Spence to end hunger protest after six weeks

A coalition of Liberal and NDP politicians and First Nations chiefs make a breakthrough

OTTAWA – Chief Theresa Spence, the leader of northern Ontario’s remote Attawapiskat First Nation, has agreed to end her hunger protest after six weeks of forgoing solid food, her spokesman said Wednesday.

Spence has been subsisting only on fish broth and medicinal tea since Dec. 11 to push for a meeting between First Nations leaders, the prime minister and the Governor General.

Both she and Elder Raymond Robinson, who has been engaged in a similar protest, have agreed to stop, spokesman Danny Metatawabin said in a statement.

The breakthrough comes after a coalition of Liberal and NDP politicians and First Nations chiefs agreed to a declaration spelling out 13 specific demands for continuing negotiations between First Nations and the federal government.

The declaration calls for improvements to housing and schools on reserves, as well as an immediate meeting between the Governor General, the federal and provincial governments and all First Nations.

It also says historic treaties that originally defined the relationship between many First Nations and Ottawa should be modernized and fully implemented within five years.

“We fully commit to carry forward the urgent and co-ordinated action required until concrete and tangible results are achieved in order to allow First Nations to forge their own destiny,” the preamble to the draft declaration reads.

Numerous other chiefs and band councillors from the northern Ontario region around Attawapiskat are travelling to the capital to be part of the Thursday procession.

The resolution will likely serve to maintain pressure on the Conservatives as MPs return to the House of Commons next week after their Christmas break.

Not only will Harper face criticism for allowing First Nations unrest to boil over, but he will also face fresh demands to revisit environmental oversight that was dramatically changed in the government’s two controversial omnibus budget bills.

“We have political and legal and constitutional issues to deal with. That’s the road that Mr. Harper has chosen,” said NDP critic Romeo Saganash.

Harper is focused instead on his plans for forthcoming talks with Atleo based on an agenda they agreed to earlier this month — some of which overlaps with the Spence declaration.

“The important thing is that we continue to make progress so that the living standards of our aboriginal people improve and that their opportunities for participating in the economy continue to improve,” Harper said Wednesday at an event in Cambridge, Ont.

“Those opportunities exist with resource development in remote areas, with the shortage of labour the Canadian economy is going to be experiencing. And I want to see aboriginal people, particularly young aboriginal people, take advantage of those opportunities.”

An informal delegation that includes interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, Saganash and northern Ontario deputy grand chief Alvin Fiddler has been working closely with Spence to hash out a dignified solution.

Rae brings a reputation as a firm but respectful mediator in tricky situations such as the Burnt Church aboriginal fishing dispute in 2000. Fiddler is from the same region as Spence and is known as a practical, sharp thinker.

Together with Spence’s team of close confidants and with moral support from some aboriginal women leaders, they settled on a declaration that clarifies Spence’s concerns and commits signatories to carry on her fight.

The declaration also demands a thorough review of the two Conservative government omnibus bills, which dramatically changed environmental oversight.

“Far too long we have been denied an equitable stature within the Canadian society,” the draft declaration states. “The time is ours and no longer will we be silenced and idle.”

Thursday is significant. It’s the day Spence and the AFN originally wanted Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston to hold a broad meeting with the country’s chiefs, in part to commemorate the first anniversary of last year’s Crown-First Nation Gathering, which was supposed to have reset relations between the two sides.

Those encouraging Spence to end her protest have been describing how they count her victories: greater national awareness of First Nations issues; a meeting between the AFN, Harper and several cabinet ministers; and a commitment to modernize treaties and aboriginal rights, with negotiations between chiefs and the top levels of government.

They also note that Spence’s resolve helped galvanize thousands of protesters across the country under the Idle No More banner.

Spence’s protest also attracted unwanted attention: much publicity surrounded a government-ordered audit of her band’s finances that showed a lack of proper documentation for about $100 million in funding.

Her protest has also left the AFN badly injured.

Atleo attended the meeting with Harper on Jan. 11 even though the Governor General was not included in the meeting, as Spence had demanded. She boycotted the meeting, as did many chiefs from Manitoba, Ontario and other parts of the country.




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Chief Theresa Spence to end hunger protest after six weeks

  1. Her own BAND !!!! said Time To Go Lady =
    A band council delegation from the beleaguered Attawapiskat community is reportedly slated to fly into Ottawa on Wednesday to hand-deliver an ultimatum to Chief Theresa Spence, threatening to oust her from office unless she ends her liquid-diet protest.

  2. Well there is also that cold coming from the north. She needs to leave that camp she’s is. Too cold! (((((((Brrrrrrr))))))))

  3. So wait.. meeting just the PM wasn’t good enough. She had to meet with the GG as well — presumably because he was who actually held power..

    Yet now, simply getting some conciliatory gestures from the opposition is enough?

    What happened? Did she get hungry or something finally?

  4. At last! Something solid, sensible (other than the continued insistence on the GG’s presence) and workable, from the sound of it. Be nice to see the actual wording of the declaration.

  5. Leave it to the First Nations to make up ancient sacred traditions on the spot – the latest “walking out ceremony” – can you believe it? The head dresses, costumes, dances, etc. are really becoming too Hollywood -the gullible maybe eating this up and impressed.

    Will Bob Rae and Mulcair be part of this “walking out ceremony” ? I suggest they carry out Chief Spence to her waiting Escalade.

    “For now, the working plan is for a sunrise ceremony early Thursday. Elders from the nearby Algonquin community of Kitigan Zibi have been asked to meet with Ms. Spence in her teepee on Victoria Island, near the Parliament buildings, and engage in a “walking out ceremony” as they leave the tent for the final time, said Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck.”

    Once again it is all about the money – Chief Spence was being delivered an ultimatum to-nite by the Attawapiskat band councillors to end this charade or you out on your ear as band chief, and you and your boyfriend are off the payroll, and out $250 thousand dollars tax free.

    Chief Spence didn’t hesitate to see if her 13 point declaration was getting past the trash bin, but begin organizing the “the walking out ceremony” with her choreographers, and we found out it in a hurry it’s all about the money after all.

    APTN National News
    Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is set to end her fast by Thursday, APTN National News has learned.

    A delegation of band councillors from Attawapiskat is expected to hand-deliver a letter to Spence Wednesday urging her to end her fast or face removal as chief of the community.

    “They are coming in tonight,” said a source close to Spence. “Then it will end.”

    • You’re right they make these ceremonies up as they go along.

      They picked up that “walking out” business from sitting up on the reserve in the freezing winter, watching old re-runs of Blazing Saddles.

      And, of course, when they signed those Treaties the KIng agreed to give them each year, forever, a brand new 72 inch TV and free HBO.

  6. “Numerous other chiefs and band councillors from the northern Ontario region around Attawapiskat are travelling to the capital to be part of the Thursday procession.”
    —————————–
    Certainly travelling the country first class and dining on Surf and Turf is a lot better than putting a bit of dough into keeping your house repaired

    Not to mention what it costs to talk to Bob Rae, “The Mediator” – trust that guy to figure a way to clip the taxpayers a $1,000 bucks an hour for the next twenty years or so.

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