Chief #Spence: Hero or punchline?

… on Twitter, at least, it all depends on who you follow


Chief #Spence and the end of her hunger protest

Storified by Maclean’s Magazine· Thu, Jan 24 2013 02:31:44

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence will end her liquids-only fast on Thursday morning. Surviving primarily on medicinal tea and fish broth since December 11, the decision to start eating solid foods came after an agreement from the Assembly of First Nations, together with the NDP caucus and the Liberal caucus, to sign Spence’s declaration entitled “First Nations: Working Towards Fundamental Change.”
Spence to end her hunger strike #idlenomore
‘So much joy on the island tonight.’ With Chief Spence. Warm spirits on the coldest night. #idlenomore (Photo: 3rdw) seesequasis
The 13-point declaration, which can be read in its entirety here, includes such priorities as a national inquiry on violence against indigenous women, as well as a review and consultation in regards to Bills C-38 and C-45.
Declaration created by Chief Spence supporters . Signed by chiefs across Canada Sterritt
Spence’s camp waits for chiefs, opposition leaders to sign declaration before ending fast National News
Liberals, NDP sign Chief Spence’s 13 point plan. Im sorry but since when was them signing any agreement meant anything?Chris_T
For his efforts in being a lead negotiator to help end Spence’s hunger protest, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae’s involvement was met with mixed reviews online.
Bob Rae on Spence to #aptn "I’ve been involved for some time now in trying to allow Chief Spence to end her fast with dignity."Kenneth Jackson
Completely different story when it comes to Bob Rae, whose compassion + understanding frankly shocked me, he visited Chief Spence unlike….M Y L È N E →moi!
It speaks well of Bob Rae that he’s trying to help Chief Spence climb down from the tall tree where she planted herselfNorman Spector
Why is Bob Rae talking to chief Theresa Spence? Trying to give her the credibility that she seems to have lost amid her community. #BobRaeLawrence Griffin
If Bob Rae signs Spence’s extortionate and absurd "declaration" I am out of the Liberal Party.James Dougal Fleming
And while Chief Spence’s efforts during the past seven weeks were met with plenty of praise online …
#chiefspence hunger strike is no longer! 44 days without food and walks out alive, wow, goes to show how strong woman can be Alexis Thomas
I have the utmost respect for Chief Theresa Spence! She is a woman who walks the talk!Virginia Beardy
Love and Light to Chief Spence today as she ends her courageous hunger strike… Your selfless act has done much for our people!Marilyn Jensen
Many thanks for Chief Spence for raising awareness on the situation of some of the poorest people in Canada. #IdleNoMoreRev_Vermette
Thank you Chief Spence for your extraordinary effort to hold Canada accountable for treaty violations – you helped open our eyes & hearts.Ingrid Mattson
Just spoke to Cross Lake Chief Garrison Settee. Calls end of Chief Theresa Spence and Raymond Robinson’s hunger strikes a victory. #cbcmbAngela Johnston
… some thought she ended her strike prematurely. Spence had initially said she would end her fast only after meeting with both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston.
Does Chief Spence feel she has accomplished what was intended ? I feel momentum was lost after PM mtg ..Shelley Mike
I’m really confused why Chief Spence would end her hunger strike *now* #cdnpoIi #PnPCBCKyle
Meanwhile, Chief Spence has not gone entirely without criticism for her liquids-only fast, sometimes referred to as a hunger strike. A Globe and Mail editorial on January 21 said “the hunger strike has run its course,” agreeing with an AFN regional chief that Spence’s fast “is not contributing to the AFN’s negotiations with the federal government.” One Toronto Sun headline said “Chief Spence wouldn’t be standing on ‘true hunger strike,’ says doc.”
Can anyone explain why Chief Theresa Spence is so adamant about meeting with a ceremonial figurehead? #dontgetitMark Robins
is it really a hunger strike if you’re allowed to eat certain foods? #firsthungerstriketogainweightFredy M
so i hear Chief Spence is ending her diet tomorrow …. oh sorry it was called a Hunger Strike my bad!OntarioNorth
So how much weight has Chief Spence lost so far? #cdnpoIiDon’tCallMeWilliam
15 minutes of spot light is DONE Chief Spence #idlenomore!!Dan Marlow
Never in my life, outside of the skinhead circles I brushed up against, have I see such overt racism as in forums about Chief SpenceCameron Campbell
With Chief Spence’s hunger strike ending, at least the posts about her weight (ungenerous attempts 2 discredit her cause) will finally end!Stephen D. Yeo
Supporters say Spence had an influence on bringing aboriginal issues back into the social discourse, encouraging debate over the Indian Act, aboriginal rights and the Idle No More movement.
Chief Theresa Spence made an impact … Nobody can or should dispute that. #idlenomorePam Blood
You may disagree with Chief Spence, it is a free country, but criticize her ideas not her person. Useful debate is not about personalities.Paul Lantz
I am proud of Chief Spence. She is a true hero to ALL Canadians. People, learn from her example! #idlenomore !Even Cool
Chief Spence is a Aboriginal woman national leader! She will always be remembered and respected by our FN peoples #IDleNoMore #ChiefSpenceKateri Sa’n
And, of course, Twitter showed a little humour about her reasons for wanting to eat solid foods again.
@ezralevant is it just coincidence Theresa Spence ends her hunger strike on Whopper Wednesday?Skip
breaking: chief spence ends hunger strike after ottawa #KFC agrees to point #13 and bring back the "double down". #hungrynomoreash
"Why do you think Chief Spence decided to end her hunger strike?" Because she was hungry.Jwt Lee
Glad that Chief Spence is stopping her hunger strike tomorrow. Gotta think fish broth won’t feature on her menu for a loooooong time.Anton McConville

Filed under:

Chief #Spence: Hero or punchline?

  1. Definitely a punchline. It’s completely laughable that anyone with half a brain would consider her ‘couragous’ or a ‘strong woman’ for going on a diet. There was just about as much chance of her dying from this as there was the auditors finding those missing receipts.

    OK … I take it back – she’s not the punchline – she’s the joke.

    • She’s got a 13-point commitment from the Liberals and NDP that is fairly comprehensive and often specific.

      It’s a slap in the face of native leaders who legitimately represented their collective claims and have continued to work in good faith, without being drama-queens and perhaps downing a Big Mac in the wee hours when no one was looking.

      • Slap in the face, or wake up call that they need to work harder to be heard? Don’t you think those “good faith” chiefs are really the ones harming their people, accepting their pay but shutting up in the face of power?

        • Perhaps. That’s another way of looking at it. But they are hardly using phony ‘fasts’ to bring their people to the point of bombing pipelines and fuel storage and/or threatening to bring the whole economy, ours and theirs, to a billion-dollar standstill.

          • She may have been a drama queen, but it wasn’t Spence who threatened to bring down the economy. And nobody has bombed any pipelines or fuel storage that I heard of. But desperate people do desperate things, so maybe it would be good for all of Canada to take some steps to ensure ALL our people have potable water, and a roof over their heads, and some food in their bellies. How many times can we turn away before somebody DOES bomb something? If you felt your family was being egregiously harmed, would you fall in line again?

  2. I’d be curious to get an *honest* account of what her weight was before and after the “hunger strike”. The photographs of her are hardly ever dated but they all show someone who is not even close to wasting away. And what about her own apparent mishandling of her band’s affairs? Is that all to be dismissed after this self-aggrandizing publicity stunt? If so, why? If Bernie Madoff went on a hunger strike would that excuse him from his previous actions?

    • Shoddy Journalism

      I’ve been fighting this “hunger strike” claim from the get-go. Journalists are obviously using Wikipedia as their lazy go-to benchmark for unsubstantiated claims.

      Nobody has been checking her diet. Nobody knows what she was not eating or was eating. Nobody has measured her daily consumption of fish-broth and nutrient density. People whose culture includes high levels of protein can live a long time on protein—> glucose metabolism.

      Oh. She’s on a “hunger-strike” because she says so, and this is someone whose first love is evidently a paper-shredder.

  3. Chief spence is a fraud and crimlnal you only have to look at the bands books if she will let you, to see that

  4. I feel that she gave “face” to the INM movement, and that face got it off the ground and brought it loads of attention, much more than the round dances would have gained since they were so localized. Once the pm met with the chiefs, however, she should have claimed a victory of sorts and stopped her fast. I will continue to watch the INM people and see how they do without a big story for media to report, but I am very glad Theresa Spence will eat again, and I hope her body is not too damaged from this fast. As for Bob Rae, he continues to grow in my esteem; he has done a terrific job as interim Liberal leader, really kept the third party in the news and relevant, and his compassion for Theresa Spence and the plight of Canada’s poorest people is commendable. Why any of my fellow
    Canucks feel we should hate on this woman is beyond comprehension; walk a mile in those shoes, boys, and see how poverty and hopelessness feels.

      • Hmm, can you move past Spence altogether and think about the rest of the Aboriginal people of Canada? I don’t personally trust those photos as evidence, but even if they were right, even if Spence was a complete jerk living off the backs of her people (and I’m not saying she is) — do you see any reason to listen to the INM movement at all, or not? Because we all need to move on now, and I’m hoping we choose to move forward. Personally very saddened and tired of seeing hungry, homeless children with blemishes on their faces from living in mouldy tents, and finding it difficult to believe they don’t deserve better.

        • I think they should have better. But short of driving there with a pot of wholesome stew, a case of clean bottled water and bags of clean, warm clothing, and personally handing it to those in need, I am not sure what I can do. My ample tax dollars are already failing to help. If you were Theresa Spence, how would you have handled the money entrusted to you as chief? And if you were her partner, making $850 a day yet seeing such poverty right outside your door in your own community, what would you do? It may be inconvenient for Theresa Spence to be asked about missing receipts to account for missing millions, but it matters to Canadian taxpayers and it matters to the members of her own band. She has lost credibility and is, in my opinion, bringing disrepute to the INM movement. She needs to step away from INM and go do her job. And I am sorry, but I do not believe she was ever on much of a hunger strike.

          • Jane, I also would like to bring a pot of stew, but not sure it would work. The problems are so deep, I have no idea what the solution could be. All I know is that with family support young people do better. I believe that reserve needs to figure out its history and customs first. As you have seen chief spence wearing feathered head gear that were only worn by plains indians. She is not a plains indian, some commenters posted that her tribe has different gear for chiefs. So maybe start at the beginning with an identity and go from there. It is sad that 150,000 litres of diesel was allowed to leak into the ground by the school without anyone noticing, but even sadder to then build a brand new school on top of the contaminated ground, that had to be abandoned after only a few months. So wiser desicions have to be made. As protectors of the land and the environment you would think there would have been an effort made to reclaim and heal that land, It is not that there would be a lack of able bodied people there.

    • patchouli, you once said to me something about being an intelligent person, so I am going to say the same thing to you. Today Aaron Wherry pointed out that ATPN is reporting that Ms. Spence’s band is demanding that she come home or they will remove her as chief. I am not saying that her hunger strike didn’t bring attention to the Idle No More movement but her resistance to accepting any compromise has taken attention away from the movement. Bob Rae has given her a way to save face. Her band is suffering. Her number one job is to look after her band. Let Mr. Atleo do the job she and the other chiefs overwhelmingly elected him to do now. There are very wise and well respected chiefs involved in this process with Atleo included Matthew Coon Come from Quebec.

      • HI, despite your implication that I’m not intelligent, you did not refute anything I said, and I positioned it all as how I feel, my opinion. The problem for the aboriginal people is that the rest of us all want them to keep following some process that clearly does not work. Why do we want that? So that we can stay safe in our little fantasies about being wonderful Canadians who look out for vulnerable citizens. We really don’t, and we really need to face that for any meaningful change to take place. I don’t hate Theresa Spence; and I said she should have climbed down after the meeting two weeks ago. Has it occurred to you and the other haters that maybe she’s an uneducated person faced with a desperate situation? Did you hate her last winter when she showcased the housing issues — her reserve was all over the news, so we all heard about it — can’t claim ignorance — but nothing changed for them. Desperation makes people do desperate things, HI. Atleo has an opportunity to earn the respect of all Canadians now, so let’s see how me makes out. So far, he’s not doing very well: after all, this is his second term. If he stays in harper’s pocket, his people get nothing better and he continues to be attacked by Bellegarde, Palmater, etc. If he goes against harper, he will be as targeted as Kevin Page. We’ll see what happens over time.

        • I agree with you that a cookie cutter process does not work the same for each band. Each band or region has different problems. It is one thing to deal with those as they need to be dealt with, but an entirely different matter to work them into the treaties. As each treaty is different, it would be nearly impossible to pass any law in this country, as it would violate one treaty or another. And then there is the indian act. Very difficult situation.

    • Bob Rae is doing what Liberals always do, putting a problem to bed by signing a document he and his party have absolutely no intention of honouring.

      As for Spence, I don’t think she gave face to the INM movement, I think she hijacked it in an attempt to cover up her own short comings knowing that the audit was coming down the line.

  5. Bobby Sands died after a 66 day hunger strike. Chief Spence looks like someone who didn’t take their “diet” seriously after 44. Would the last Investigative Journalist in Canada please update the Wikipedia entry?

  6. Harper a real champion for Canadian democracy and government.

    Harper is a hero today for democracy in Canada, and his actions will be a watershed in the history of Canadian politics, which will benefit all political parties in the future, who may not have the intestinal fortitude, to do the right thing. Prime Minister Harper with a sense of integrity and courage, would not be blackmailed or permit extortion, by any group of Canadians, no matter how well intentioned, who are trying to promote their own personal agenda. The Winnipeg Free Press, in an editorial last month, admonished Chief Spence for trying to blackmail the Prime Minister of Canada with her demands and threats.

    Is there anybody that wants mob rule in Canada other than the mob?

    • you know I never stopped to think about this : can anyone else ‘ honestly ‘ state that were anyone else to be PM they would have handled this file as well as Harper … hmmmm .. imagine what Tommy or Justin were they PM would have done = think about it folks – how much you want to bet that they would have talked a lot, promised more and spent a BUNDLE !!!!!!! to make her go away – hmmm you are right Harper should be credited with plaing it straight playing it honest, felxible and willing to sit down and cut a deal in other words playing it the way it should have been played and there is no doubt about this!!!