Theresa Spence and questions of legacy

Tease the day: Attawapiskat chief doesn’t find much sympathy in the morning papers


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Theresa Spence strolled into an Ottawa hotel yesterday, where she was celebrated by her peers as having accomplished something extraordinary during her weeks-long protest on Victoria Island. The chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, who our Aaron Wherry called the most influential woman in the country as she prepared to leave town, returns to her reserve having caused quite a stir. For many weeks, Spence’s cause was bolstered by sympathetic voices in the papers, columnists who were occasionally uncritical. Today, you’ll find not much sympathy remains.

The Toronto Star‘s editorial board is a holdout in its support of the chief. This morning, the paper writes that Spence can leave town “with her head high,” calls her fast “courageous,” and suggests that she deserves a measure of credit for any positive developments on the Aboriginal file. Across town, The Globe and Mail‘s editorial board couldn’t disagree more. The paper argues Spence’s protest “did not feed the debate,” though it did “polarize existing divisions within the first nations leadership and alienate Canadians who felt her tactic was extortionate and went on too long.” Spence only damaged Aboriginal interests, if you believe the Globe.

Tim Harper, writing in the Star, fell somewhere between the two editorials. Harper thinks Spence deserves part of the credit for forcing a meeting between the prime minister and aboriginal leaders, and also keeping Idle No More in the news for weeks. But as to whether or not Spence can claim an “absolute victory,” as her spokesman has suggested, Harper says “the truth is somewhat greyer, frustratingly elusive and somehow deflating.” Whether or not her efforts will bear fruit is, so far, a mystery. Michael Den Tandt, who often praised Spence’s fast, writes for Postmedia that no matter what her contribution—and he says her mishandling of government concessions to her demands caused a “great deal of harm” to Aboriginal momentum—there’s no way to know what it will achieve in the long run, and who will take up the mantle once she leaves Ottawa. In the end, Spence’s exit leaves so many more questions than her entrance to the national stage. Whether or not that becomes her legacy is, well, also a mystery.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with Canada’s extended commitment of airlift support to France’s mission in Mali. The National Post fronts a bankrupt First Nation in northern Ontario that received emergency federal funding to cover costs. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Mayor Rob Ford’s fate as chief magistrate, to be decided by a Divisional Court this morning. The Ottawa Citizen leads with Progressive Conservative plans for Ontario’s education system, including a freeze on new all-day kindergarten programs across the province. iPolitics fronts the commencement of voting in the Ontario Liberal leadership race. CBC.ca leads with Ford’s fate. National Newswatch showcases the same CBC story.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Gun registry. Federal documents suggest the government will save about $2 million a year after shutting down its long-gun registration program, short of estimates. 2. Oil sands. A Canadian subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned energy company will pay a $1.5-million penalty for the deaths of two foreign workers in 2007.
3. Algeria. RCMP officials are on the ground in Algeria in search of evidence that Canadians were involved in coordinating a hostage-taking at a gas plant that left dozens dead. 4. Ashley Smith. A correctional officer who repeatedly came to inmate Ashley Smith’s aid when she tied ligatures around her neck was reprimanded by superiors for his actions.

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Theresa Spence and questions of legacy

  1. Rosa Parks became famous in 1955 for the simple act of refusing to give up her seat on the bus. She lost her job because of it. The marches from Selma to Montgomery didn’t happen for another decade….1965, but eventually blacks got civil rights, and Obama became President.

    I have no idea why much of the Canadian media, many of whom have acted like plantation owners throughout this situation, expected everything to be resolved overnight.

    • Its obscent to compare the USA civil rights to this debacle.
      The audit has shown all Canadians what really went on.
      Why are you blind? Why did she pay her partner Kennedy $850 a day?
      Do you see anything fraudulent about that? A Cadillac in her driveway?
      Rosa Parks did not even own a bicycle. Shameful comparison. USA citizens would laugh at this garbage. “Poor me” syndrome. Millions missing.
      $3 million in investments by Kennedy and Spence says the audit. And people in the cold on their reserve? I guess you agree with that…kids shivering and hungry while her and partner earned $250,000? The audit by one of Canadas most respected audit firms said so. Facts and truth really hurt?
      RCMP should investigate immediately. Ordinary Canadians would be in jail over this.

      • It’s Canada’s civil rights movement Phillip….and no, the audit has shown nothing you think it does

        Rosa Parks was attacked unmercifully….you are doing the same thing with Spence

        • a civil rights movement…all that drama for a two bit theif

          • What if Theresa Spence had never involved herself, never had a hunger strike, but only the INM movement held their peaceful public round dances? Do you think they would have found a national platform in our minds? Would their cause have been better or worse off? Can you see any reason for aboriginal protests at all, or do you just think it’s Spence who’s the problem?

          • The protests were very interesting and raised awareness but Spence was a problem, she cost the movement credibility by identifying herself with it.

          • mavri….enough with the lying please.

      • there’s also millions spent on “Real Estate” by the chief…no one asking what was purchased or where and no paper trail. People should stop trying to turn her into some kind of hero or saint…it was all about her…until her band threatened to fire her

      • 850 a day for her partner? Good grief! Surely you jest! I mean, it happens in government too but two wrongs don’t make a right. It goes to the center of her credibility.

  2. Rosa Parks did not pay herself ridiculous amounts of cash that was supposed to help the children in her community live in better housing. Teresa Spence should be charged with abuse of all the children in Attawapiskat by blowing millions of dollars that was meant to help families. Do not compare Rosa Parks with this charlatan.

    • They lied about Rosa Parks the same way you’re doing with Chief Spence.

      Plantation owners never change.

      • You’re going to be late for work.

      • Plantation owners? you’re nuts. Is Spence a charlatan? More of a hustler. I think she believes in what she’s doing though that’s the paradox because what is she accomplishing exactly?

        • I’m afraid Spence has done nothing wrong, she has, in fact, become a hero…. and you’ve been taken in by a political attempt to discredit her.

          • I am sure she is a hero to some.

  3. Why does the media insist that Theresa Spence achieved something noble when the opposite is the case proven by the polls conducted across Canada and all of the hundreds of postings? Its pure theatrical fakery, with utterly bizarre comments comparing this debacle to “USA civil rights” and “Mandela” and others. Pure propaganda when the audit showed what the real facts are and she appears to have lost no weight after this fake hunger strike taking real food. Canadians are not fooled by this. Harper has very respectfully maintained his composure over this entire drama. Natives whining and maintaining a blame game ignore their own accountability. Why are many bands in Canada doing quite successfully in resource industry EARNING their money not by handouts but by sweat? Others simply want a weekly cheque sent to them in the mail and as Brad Wall Premier of Saskatchewan said…it wont happen. Where are the Attawapiskat millions? Why a hockey rink instead of a school? Why a Cadillac Escalade in Spences driveway when kids are cold. Annual income of $250,000? Other Canadians do not earn that. You cannot fool Canadian.

    • Polls don’t ‘prove’ anything. It’s just a bit of public opinion on any given day.

      And in fact polling shows most Canadians support the movement. Surprise eh?

      Well you should stop listening to talking points, and pay attention to facts….your post is shameless racism.

    • I realize I will not change your mind, but given that there are homeless people and those living in extreme poverty in every jurisdiction of Canada, why is it that you don’t expect the pm and premiers to drive junkers and eat baloney until everyone in their region is in better shape. You demand from aboriginal leaders that which you would never dream of asking from non-aboriginal leaders. Did you demand Tony Clement go to jail for spending millions of dollars on the G20 and fake lakes, gazebos, to impress since so many in his riding are poor? Betcha didn’t. You mention Brad Wall quite lovingly; why should he chip in for a freakin’ football stadium when SK is filled with the poor, the homeless, the uneducated, etc? Heck, you don’t have to go past Wall’s cabinet to see the dearth of education in SK.

      • patchouli…I see your point. On the other hand, what I can not understand…For example chief Nepisak (sp)..I googled him and read his biography. Very impressive. And quite a feat what he was able to do on the reserve he took over. But here is my problem, if he could do it on his reserve, why as regional chief is he not doing it in his region. After all he said Manitoba has most of the poorest reserves in the country. His combativeness is not helping those poor.

        • Why do you think he succeeded in one situation, yet has not in the other? What are you suggesting?

          • Not sure…has he tried, and the problems were bigger and he was not able to fix it, or was he content with the success in the one place and didn not want to get involved or step on toes somewhere else….can`t say

      • Tony Clement and Brad Wall can be voted out. Same with Theresa Spence. I think all Canadians demand financial accountability from politicians. Look what happened in Quebec with mayors resigning over the public works kickback scandal. People don’t like corruption and waste of tax dollars from anyone. The only difference in Attawapiskat is that the voters there haven’t paid taxes or contributed anything to get the money, it’s an entitlement. Therein lies the problem.

  4. Legacy isn’t based on what she’s done until now: it will be based on what happens going forward. If changes happen for Aboriginal peoples, the public will link her to those changes because of all the media attention. If nothing happens, well, go read Martin Patriquin’s thinly disguised diatribe of hate.

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