After 24 days, hunger striker Spence demands action from Ottawa

‘Her life is on the line,’ spokesman says of chief’s urgent request to meet PM

by Heather Scoffield

OTTAWA – Efforts to broker a solution to end a 24-day-old hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence have foundered.

First Nations leaders had initially proposed a Jan. 24 meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnson, and took their proposal to Spence’s teepee on Thursday afternoon.

But Spence told the aboriginal leaders Thursday that her failing health means she can’t wait that long for assurances that her concerns about treaty rights will be addressed.

“She remains committed, she remains strong and she remains steadfast in what she is setting out to do,” said Stan Louttit, grand chief of the Mushkegowuk Council, which includes the Attawapiskat First Nation.

“She is determined that a meeting with the prime minister is paramount and of utmost importance immediately.”

Spence has been subsisting mainly on fish broth since Dec. 11, huddling in a tent on frozen Victoria Island on the Ottawa River, just beyond Parliament Hill.

Spence has no problem with First Nations leaders meeting with Harper in a few weeks time, Louttit said, but she wants to be included in a preliminary meeting well before then.

“I think what is required for the life of these individuals here, for the life of the chief, is that there needs to be a meeting with the prime minister soon, within the next two or three days. Her life is on the line,” said Louttit.

“From a human perspective and as a leader of this nation, he has a duty — a moral duty as a father and a husband — to listen and be able to meet with Chief Spence so that she can finish what she has set out to do.”

Louttit and other top Ontario chiefs travelled to Ottawa to strategize with Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo on Thursday in hopes of clarifying Spence’s demands and laying the groundwork for a compromise that would end her hunger strike.

But before their discussions began, Atleo issued an early-morning news release urging Harper and Johnston to meet with him and others on Jan. 24 — the one-year anniversary of Harper’s summit with chiefs.

“First Nations across this country have been voicing concern and frustration with a broken system that does not address long-standing disparities between First Nations and the rest of Canada,” Atleo said in the statement.

“There is no excuse for inaction either by First Nations leadership or by Canada.”

A meeting with chiefs to mark the one-year anniversary of the Crown First Nations Gathering would have given Harper a graceful way to diffuse the conflict, but even before Harper had a chance to say yes or no to the invitation, Spence had declared it a non-starter.

A spokesman for Harper never did give a straight answer.

“We will reply to Chief Atleo in due course. The government remains willing to work with the First Nations leadership to deliver better outcomes for First Nations communities,” spokesman Carl Vallee said in an email.

Government insiders say they are struggling to figure out exactly what Spence wants. And First Nations leaders have also recognized that they need to hash out a coherent list of expectations that would help the public make sense of the hunger strike as well as the Idle No More grassroots protests that have spread across the country and beyond.

“We have to co-ordinate the messaging,” said Chief Isadore Day of the Serpent River First Nation in northern Ontario.

Day and other chiefs have been burning up the phone lines for the past week, trying to smooth over rifts between the grassroots protesters and the First Nations leadership, while also negotiating a concrete list of key issues that could be taken to a meeting with Harper.

On Thursday night, Day issued a public call for peace and unity among chiefs, protesters and the Canadian public.

At the heart of Spence’s protest are treaty rights, said Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, and that issue needs to be deal with on a nation-to-nation basis.

“It’s not just a bureaucratic process she is looking for.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has offered many times to meet with Spence, and has also offered to set up a working group to deal with treaty rights. But the chiefs say they have waited long enough for concrete government action.

Treaties were signed decades ago, and governments have not lived up to their side of the bargain, leaving First Nations without much power to deal with poverty, protect the environment, and provide for their children, Day added.

Spence has warned there will be more unrest, including “countrywide economic disturbances,” unless Harper meets her.

Atleo, however, stressed the need for peaceful protest and concrete solutions.

“It’s time for the Crown to honour its relationship and responsibilities to First Nations starting with the recognition and affirmation of our inherent and treaty rights,”he said.

“It’s time for all First Nations citizens and their leaders to drive solutions.”




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After 24 days, hunger striker Spence demands action from Ottawa

  1. “… more self-sufficient First Nation communities…”

    One of the best ways to accomplish that would be to remove the programs that lead the indians themselves to dependency.

    Promoting ‘first nations’ at the expense of the indians living on them is a poor direction.

    • You are soooo confused.

      • Heh heh heh… I can at least see from where the problem stems for the majority of poverty on ‘first nations’. And creating more power and authority for the chiefs of those ‘first nations’ isn’t going to do anything to induce the actual indians to bestir themselves toward self sufficiency.

        People are far more important than communities.

        • Indians come from India. Don’t be ignorant on purpose

          The problem stems from the fact we haven’t been honourable on the treaties. Legally and morally we are in the wrong. Sad, but true.

          Lot’s of good chiefs out there. A few bad apples. Just like in the HOC

          You realize….of course….FN can’t be ‘self-sufficient’….it’s illegal?

          PS…people can’t exist without communities

          • The Crown lavishly overpays its Treaty obligations, a reality of which you would be aware if you ever read them.

            http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028653/1100100028654

            BTW, the term “indian” is the official one that comes direct from the eponymous Indian Act.

            Its use distinguishes between the people themselves on the one hand, and the organizations under whose tutelage they languish on the other hand; the ‘first nations’ with their chiefs band councils, etc.

            PS people can find other communities. They shouldn’t feel as if they ought to be stuck in the same one.

          • Are you able to focus at all?

            FNs are protected under the Constitution….which overrides the treaties and the ‘Indian’ act….period.

            FN should move to what communities…exactly?

          • So, what are you talking about? ‘First nations’ moving? Or indians moving?

            There is a mixed bag of rights and protections, some of which apply to ‘first nations’ and some of which apply to indians. And the constitution implicitly recognizes the Indian Act and the various Treaties with reference to existing rights.

            I think it is you who needs to focus.

          • I see you have experienced the joy of feeding the troll.

          • Heh heh heh… it’s like watching road-ragers rant impotently.

          • Stop playing stupid. Assuming you are ‘playing’ stupid.

            There is no ‘mixed bag’….FNs are protected in the Constitution. Period.

          • Well, to what do you refer when you write FN? (I’m assuming it’s not Fabrique Nationale)

            Indians or ‘first nations?

            They are very different, and have very different status in law and in treaty.

          • Hey…if you want to appear this stupid in public, it’s my pleasure to let you. LOL

          • As far as terminology goes, I have the Indian Act as the official reference.

            You use “FN”, an acronym for a neologism which had, among its purposes, the goal of smearing the distinctions between indians and the authorities under which they live.

            Find unambiguous language, Emily, and preferably with resorting to neologisms of any kind.

          • Nah…you’re just playing stupid.

            Or ….shrug….maybe you’re not ‘playing’….which is sad for you.

          • LOL, sigh, sooooooo, Indians are from India, kay …………..

            One thing about it, your load of fatuous horse pucky isn’t doing the old “FN’s” much good.

            As that fat old Chief is taking her last starving breath your juicy mouth will still be running like a seagull’s rear end.

          • How bout you stop being stupid, ooops sorry, we cant fix that.

          • I think YOU need to learn to focus.

            You just told us that “Indians are from India” and I can promise you that neither the BNA Act nor the Constitution “patriated” by that jackass Trudeau, has anything whatsoever to do with India

            So make up your mind Popeye, what’s it going to be.

            And I’m still waiting for you and your yappy mouth to delineate clearly how we got from a James Bay Treaty No 9 per capita payment of 4 dollars a year to Chief Fatty’s 90 million plus Zambonis.

          • Kay….you stupid people need to get together on this….otherwise you’re hilarious!

          • Just detail it out for us, please

            If you can show us exactly how the Constitution got us from 4 dollars a year in Treaty 9 to $90 million plus Zambonis, I will write personally to Harper and tell him to act according to the law.

            Otherwise I don’t believe it’s there, I can’t see it there, I believe these people are being dealt with fairly (more than fairly) and lawfully and on that basis both you and the Big Chief can stick it.

          • You haven’t the slightest interest in any of this, Sot. And everyone is aware of that.

            You are simply a stalker

            A chargeable offence btw….and yes, I know who you are.

          • What no details yet Emily, just more bullsh.it…..
            Your husband is going to be pissed when he finds out you been on his computer again. Now back to your floor scrubbing.

          • Reminds me of that old story Emily about the First Class passenger on a flight out of LA not getting things done to suit him.

            Hollywood passenger To Flight Attendant – Do YOU know who I am?

            Flight Attendant – Oh great, I’ve got a late plane, a shortage of meals, a sick passenger, 3 screaming babies – AND NOW, I’ve got a left wing hollywood screwball who doesn’t know who he is.
            ————————————————————————-
            So Emily forget about me – do you know who YOU are?

            If you ever find out Emily I still want to know how the Constitution got us from the Treaties to $90 million plus Zambonis.

          • Oh look, retardo is back.

        • listen to yourself, you have no idea what your even talking about….try living on a reserve first before you decide to yap your mouth. Its ppl like you that give canada a bad name

      • Does your husband know your on his computer again Emily? Shouldn’y you be in the kitchen baking pies or something.

  2. She’s not on a hunger strike. 24 days of alleged starving and no visible weight loss.

    Please stop falsely reporting this as a hunger strike, it is insulting to anyone who reads it.

    • Seriously who cares, let the fat sow die!

  3. harper met with Bieber.

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