Former PM Paul Martin lauds Attawapiskat chief
Martin visited Theresa Spence at her camp on Ottawa's Victoria Island Saturday
An aboriginal chief who has gone without solid food for close to a month in a bid to force renewed talks between First Nations and the federal government is an inspiration to all Canadians, says former prime minister Paul Martin.
Martin visited Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence at her camp on Ottawa's Victoria Island on Saturday.
He told CTV's Question Period Sunday that it was a good meeting.
"I just told her that she'd become really an inspiration for all Canadians and that we were obviously concerned about her health and that she's got to take care of herself," Martin said.
One of Martin's final acts as prime minister was the brokering of the Kelowna Accord, a deal between the government and First Nations that would have seen $5 billion in new spending over 10 years.
The money would have been used to improve education and health outcomes, as well as housing.
Martin’s First Nations legacy never implemented
But Martin's Liberal government fell and was replaced by the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the accord was never implemented.
Resetting the treaty relationship was Spence's goal when she began her hunger strike on Dec. 11, giving up solid foods in favour of a liquids-only diet.
Spence was seeking a meeting between the prime minister, Governor General and First Nations leadership.
Her strike came as aboriginal activists also began a national protest movement called Idle No More in response to the Conservatives' latest budget bill.
Without acknowledging Spence's strike or the protest movement, Harper announced Friday that he will meet with First Nations leadership this week.
The talks will focus on two elements: the treaty relationship and economic development.
Those two are part of six broader themes that Harper and First Nations leaders agreed to work on following meetings last January.
A spokesman for Spence reiterated Sunday that she will remain on her strike at least until the meeting takes place, and possibly longer.
"We're very cautious and she wants to wait based on the outcome of that meeting," Danny Metatawabin told CTV. "We want positive results."
Martin is the second former prime minister to meet with Spence. Former Tory prime minister Joe Clark went to see her at the end of December.
Idle No More protests continued over the weekend with groups blocking rail lines and border crossing throughout the country.
Several groups in Juneau, Alaska, have offered public displays of support for the Idle No More movement, with at least three small "flash mobs" held around town.
On Friday afternoon, a handful of people donned traditional tribal regalia, played drums and sang clan songs at Sealaska Plaza in downtown Juneau. A small crowd of perhaps two dozen gathered, some carrying small signs with "Idle No More" printed on them.
"They're actually setting the precedent," said Keen of the Canadian demonstrators. "This affects us too in the United States. It affects us in Alaska."
With files from The Associated Press