Hunger-striking chief calls for action amidst health concerns
Time for Harper to 'show some leadership and to extend a hand,' NDP says
Aleksandra Sagan, CBC News
Posted: Dec 30, 2012 12:12 PM ET
Last Updated: Dec 31, 2012 9:49 AM ET
On First Nations Chief Theresa Spence's 20th day of her politically motivated hunger strike, Canadians and politicians answered her plea for solidarity for her cause to secure a meeting between First Nations leaders, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the Governor General.
The Attawapiskat chief sent Friday a public plea to make Sunday a day of solidarity, asking Canadians to stage protests across the country and petitioning politicians to meet with her in Ottawa.
A number of politicians started making their way to Victoria Island, Ottawa, where the chief is residing in a teepee, including a 15-member NDP delegation, spokeswoman Valérie Dufour told CBC News on Sunday.
Originally, 17 NDP MPs were expected, Cheryl Maloney, who self-identified as a Spence supporter and is the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, told CBC News. However, two expected MPs experienced weather-related delays.
NDP sends MPs to meet with chief
The group, which was scheduled to meet with Spence at 2 p.m. ET Sunday, was to be led by deputy leader Megan Leslie and Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus.
The NDP has been following Spence's hunger strike very closely, Dufour said. Since the chief started her hunger strike on Dec. 11, she has subsisted on fish broth and tea. Her condition has been worsening, according to a statement released Friday.
"Her condition continues to weaken every hour," read the statement.
On Dec. 18, party leader Thomas Mulcair wrote a letter to Harper asking him to meet with Spence."Please act swiftly to avoid a personal tragedy for Chief Spence," he wrote.
Now, 20 days into Spence's hunger strike, the NDP is "beginning to be very worried," said Dufour. "It's dangerous for her…We're all a bit afraid because she said she's even willing to die for it."
Dufour said Harper should meet with First Nations leaders as soon as possible because it is the only way to settle the matter, adding that Spence isn't asking for much by requesting a meeting with the prime minister.
"Now it's time for Stephen Harper to show some leadership and to extend a hand and to meet with the leader," she said.
Spence supporter Maloney, who forwarded the chief's latest statement, said she was not authorized to speak about Spence's condition. She said it is getting harder for the chief to host visitors and conduct interviews. The chief rested in advance of Sunday's meeting, which was to include 15 NDP MPs, two Liberal MPs and three Liberal senators.
"[We] haven’t heard anything from any Conservatives at all," she said.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has offered several times to speak with Spence and form a working group, but she rejected his proposals because she believes he is not the one who should be speaking on a nation-to-nation basis.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk who is one of two aboriginal MPs in the Conservative cabinet, urged Spence to stop fasting and accept a meeting with Duncan. "That's the best way to address her issues," Aglukkaq said.
Spence chose to continue her fast, hoping to secure a meeting with Harper and the Governor General instead.
Former PM visits Spence
On Saturday afternoon, former prime minister Joe Clark visited Spence, following her open invitation.
In a statement after his meeting, Clark said that "there is a general concern that First Nations–Canada relations are headed in a dangerous direction."
'First Nations - Canada relations are headed in a dangerous direction'—Joe Clark, former prime minister
People no longer active in political life may have to help support "the resumption of productive discussions," he said.
"Chief Spence expressed a humble and achievable vision — one which I believe all Canadians can embrace," he said, adding honest dialogue and mutual commitment can carry-out her vision.
Idle No More rallies staged across Canada
Meanwhile, Canadians held rallies on Sunday in a show of support for the chief.An Idle No More protest at Toronto's Eaton Centre was organized in response to a call for action from hunger-striking First Nations Chief Theresa Spence. (John Bowman/CBC News)
At least half a dozen events were planned on Sunday across Canada, said CBC's Shannon Martin.
The Idle No More movement — which has hosted several demonstrations in past weeks and is loosely tied to Spence's protest — staged a rally in Toronto, Ont., in response to the chief's call for action. Participants gathered near the Eaton Centre for a "round dance flash mob," according to the Toronto chapter's Twitter account.
In Alberta, about 400 protesters gathered outside Harper's Calgary office, reported CBC's Devin Heroux. People performed a round dance, carried signs and played drums as part of an Idle No More flash mob.
Various rallies and demonstrations supporting Spence also took place yesterday in Oklahoma, Washington, Cincinnati, and Regina — where a four-day hunger strike is underway, said Martin.With files from the Canadian Press
Latest Sudbury News Headlines
- High water levels worries Sudbury canoe club
- A Sudbury canoe club instructor says high water levels on Ramsey Lake are causing problems, even though the city says it would rather see water levels higher than lower ones. more »
- Sudbury residents paying for shingles vaccine
- Demand for the shingles vaccine is on the rise in Sudbury, as people try to prevent the agonizing rash. more »
- Shelter website aims to match lost pets with owners
- The Rainbow District Animal Shelter has created a new lost and found page for pets on its website, in an attempt to match lost pets with their owners more quickly. more »
- Half of First Nations children live in poverty
- Half of status First Nations children in Canada live in poverty, a troubling figure that jumps to nearly two-thirds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, says a newly released report. more »
Top News Headlines
- Sopranos star James Gandolfini dies in Italy
- Actor James Gandolfini, best known for his Emmy-winning portrayal of a conflicted New Jersey mob boss in the acclaimed HBO cable television series The Sopranos, has died while vacationing in Rome, the network said on Wednesday. more »
- Canada buys rare War of 1812 collection for $573K
- The government of Canada was the winning bidder for a large collection of letters, maps and other papers that once belonged to Sir John Sherbrooke, the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia who conquered Maine for the British during the War of 1812. The collection sold for $573,000 at auction in London. more »
- Caregiving dads pay steep penalties at work, study says
- Fathers who participate in child rearing and housework are likely to be labeled slackers and "failed men" at work, according to a study spearheaded by researchers at the University of Toronto and Long Island University. Are active dads the norm at your workplace? more »
- Dozens of children seized from Manitoba Mennonite community
- Child welfare authorities have removed all but one child from a small Mennonite community in rural Manitoba. more »