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Spence in hospital after hunger protest

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence remained in hospital on an intravenous line Thursday as she recovered from having spent the last six weeks forgoing solid food.

Spokesman Danny Metatawabin said Spence went to the hospital Wednesday evening for a checkup after agreeing to end her hunger protest, which began Dec. 11. She was kept overnight for observation.

He praised Spence for pushing First Nations issues to the top of the national political agenda, and for taking a stand on behalf of all indigenous people, demonstrating they can and will persevere.

"We will not be forgotten," Metatawabin said during a marathon news conference Thursday in Ottawa. "We will not be put behind."

The end came as other chiefs and federal opposition parties vowed to take up her cause of treaty implementation and improved conditions on reserves. And it followed careful negotiation by interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.

Rae said he was concerned some days ago that there was a risk of the whole effort "going off the rails" if Spence didn't call a stop to her protest.

He said he told Spence: "It's everyone's struggle. But no one should die."

The chiefs and the politicians were to sign a 13-point declaration committing them to seeking immediate improvements to native housing and education; a meeting of First Nations chiefs, the prime minister and Governor General; and full implementation of treaty and aboriginal rights within five years.

"We agree the self-sacrifice and the spiritual courage of Chief Theresa Spence, along with Elder Raymond Robinson and all other fasters ... have made clear the need for fundamental change in the relationship of First Nations and the Crown," the declaration states.

"We fully commit to carry forward the urgent and co-ordinated action required until concrete and tangible results are achieved in order to allow First Nations to forge their own destiny," says the preamble to the declaration.

The protest commanded the attention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his ministers and top officials. It also polarized public opinion in Canada and around the world, revealing a stark division between people who want to see more help for First Nations and those who believe they already get too much.

The Canadian Press


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