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PM will meet starving Chief

Chief Theresa Spence expressed joy Friday at news that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to meet First Nations leaders, but said she won't end her hunger strike until the meeting actually takes place next Friday.

"I'm just really overjoyed to hear that the Crown, the prime minister and the government, that they're going to meet with us," she said. "I'll still be here on my hunger strike until the actual meeting takes place."

Spence plans to attend the meetings in person, she added. "I'll be there with my chiefs."

Harper has agreed to meet about 10 days earlier than the date the Assembly of First Nations had proposed in a bid to both calm protests and put an end Spence's nearly month-long hunger strike.

But Spence said she won't close her encampment on Victoria Island, where she has lived without solid food since Dec. 11.

The prime minister's office says the meeting next week will be co-ordinated by the Assembly of First Nations and will focus on treaty relationships, aboriginal rights and economic development.

"I think it is good news and a good move by the prime minister," Grand Chief Stan Louttit told CBC News on Friday.

He said he was pleased that Spence will be included in the talks.

"Chief Spence has been the driving force for 25 days."

The meeting is being billed as a follow-through on talks in January 2012 when the government and First Nations committed to an ongoing dialogue.

"While some progress has been made, there is more that must be done to improve outcomes for First Nations communities across Canada," Harper said in a statement.

The Canadian Press


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