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Prime Minister To Meet With First Nations Chiefs Next Week, As Attawapiskat Chief Marks 25th Day Of
January 4, 2013
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With Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence now into the 25th day of her hunger strike, the Prime Minister has agreed to meet with First Nations chiefs next Friday.

Today, Stephen Harper's office said he will attend a "working meeting" with a delegation of First Nations chiefs on January 11.

It's not clear whether Chief Spence will be at the meeting, or whether she'll accept it as a reasonable response to her demands.

The PMO made its announcement shortly before a news conference by aboriginal leaders and opposition critics to talk about Spence's health.

A spokesperson for Spence didn't answer questions about whether she would attend.

But he did say that her hunger strike would continue until the meeting happened.
"She's well, but you can tell her body is weak," said Danny Metatawabin.

He also said Spence is showing obvious signs of fatigue but she's determined to hold out until the meeting actually takes place.

Metatawabin added that he cried when he heard the news from the Prime Minister's office.

"Tears started to come down my eyes and I had to hold off my tears because I wanted to share my tears with Chief Theresa and all the helpers that came to support her," he said.

Yesterday, Spence said a meeting needs to happen within 72 hours and suggested protests across Canada in her support could escalate.

Prime-minister-to-meet-with-first-nations-chiefs-next-week-as-attawapiskat-chief-marks-25th-day-of-hunger-strike-feature2.jpg Early this morning, she released a news release saying that as the 25th day of her action begins, "her message is becoming more crucial."

"This is a crisis, and we cannot continue on this path of social indifference," Spence said.

She also reiterated her call for an "urgent" meeting between First Nations leaders, the Prime Minister and the Governor General.

As well, her spokesperson said the chief "cannot physically sustain her hunger strike" until January 24.

That date was proposed by the Assembly of First Nations for talks with the Prime Minister and Governor General. It is the first anniversary of their 2012 Crown-First Nations gathering.

Today's statement from Stephen Harper said next week's meeting will build on the 2012 talks, and focus on the treaty relationship and aboriginal rights and economic development.

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

"The government of Canada and First Nations have an enduring historic relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and support. The government of Canada is committed to strengthening this relationship."

First Nations leaders are calling for a share of resources so that they can benefit from profits and development related to their land.

"If they're opening up a mine near your town, they have a duty under Ontario law, in this case, to be able to talk to your mayor and council... no such thing for First Nations," Grand Chief Stan Louttit said.

"We can't just rely on impact benefit agreements that we're forced to negotiate. There needs to be a process in place where we get a piece of the pie, just like Ontario does, just like Canada does... we need to get part of that as well so that we can begin to prosper, so that we can get out of the poverty that we're in."

Prime-minister-to-meet-with-first-nations-chiefs-next-week-as-attawapiskat-chief-marks-25th-day-of-hunger-strike-feature3.jpg As for Spence, she's been surviving on water and fish broth since December 11, and camped out on Victoria Island on the Ottawa River, not far from Parliament Hill.

Cross Lake, Manitoba elder Raymond Robinson has also gone without food since December 11. He's lost more than 30 pounds and is having trouble standing up straight because of his pain.

Meantime, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has been meeting with officials from the prime minister's office to try to address Spence's hunger strike and the concerns of the Idle No More protest movement.

Idle No More is calling for recent federal legislation to be thrown out or stopped, saying it infringes on their treaty rights and human rights.

Related stories

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence Is In The Third Week Of Her Hunger Strike; Some Politicians Are Speaking Out In Support

As The Chief Of Attawapiskat Marks Her 10th Day On A Hunger Strike, Another First Nations Community Faces A Crisis This Winter

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence Says She's Willing To Die For A Metting With Prime Minister Harper

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