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Pressure mounts for fasting chief

A visibly weak Chief Theresa Spence made a brief appearance on Sunday -- in Day 20 of her fast -- as a parade of politicians and protesters turned up the volume to demand action from the Harper government on treaty issues.

Through a spokesperson, the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation said she was "deeply humbled" by the support she's received from aboriginals and non-aboriginals in her appeal for a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston.

A demonstration in support of her hunger fast took place at Toronto's Eaton Centre, where protesters crowded a section of the mall in a loud, but peaceful gathering.

A smaller crowd backing Spence assembled in Calgary outside of Harper's constituency office. The chief acknowledged the outpouring from members of the Idle No More movement, but called for other First Nations leaders to also step up.

"This is a call to arms and a call to action in the most peaceful and respective way that reflects our natural laws as Indigenous nations," she said in the statement. "First Nations leadership need to take charge and control of the situation on behalf of the grassroots movement. We need to re-ignite that nation-to-nation relationship based on our inherent and constitutionally protected rights as a sovereign nation. We are demanding our rightful place back, here in our homelands, that we all call Canada."

Spence invited MPs and senators to visit over a two hour period Sunday at her teepee, situated on an island in the frozen Ottawa River looking up at Parliament Hill.

Former prime minister Joe Clark, the highest profile visitor, made an appearance Saturday, meeting with Spence and issuing a statement that said honest conversation can often lead to common ground.

Other current politicians, both opposition NDP and Liberals, issued similar cautions, but also expressed concern for Spence's health.

than she had earlier, in the first two weeks. I think it's very clear it's starting to take a physical toll."

Concern is string enough that some have urged to give up and let Opposition politicians take up the fight -- something Craig said tried to convey to to her.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq joined other federal officials Friday asking Spence to accept a meeting with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan but Spence rejected the recommendation.

The government points to a meeting it held last January with First Nations leaders as proof it is serious about improving their relationship, and adds it has spent millions on aboriginal health, housing and education.

But aboriginal leaders say they are being left out of the discussion the Harper government is having about how best to develop Canada's lucrative natural resources.

The Canadian Press


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