Garnet Angeconeb, residential school survivor, ends hunger strike
Residential school survivor and Lac Seul First Nation negotiate end to protest over law firm
A tentative agreement was reached early Monday evening to end a hunger strike by a residential school survivor from Lac Seul First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, according to a source close to the negotiations.
Garnet Angeconeb was in the fifth day of his hunger strike, protesting his First Nation's use of the Kenora law firm Keshen and Major. The firm is being investigated for its dealings with survivors.
"What I see is vulnerable people being taken advantage of to the point where some of them, not all of them, but some of them are helpless and not being listened to wherever they try to take their concerns," Angeconeb told CBC News on Sunday.
At least four survivors have reported various concerns to the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat. The "information suggests the Keshen firm may have denied some IAP [Independent Assessment Process] claimants the full amounts of compensation for abuse suffered at Indian Residential Schools...," according to the Secretariat's website.
A joint news release from Lac Seul and Angeconeb was expected to be issued later Monday night.
On Sunday, Angeconeb said his hunger strike was a show of solidarity with the survivors who sought justice for their abuse through the law firm and feel they were "re-victimized" in the process.
"Really what this is about is to lend support to these people as they seek justice one more time," Angeconeb said. "Here we are as survivors thinking 'I thought we said never again' and here [they] are being hurt by someone else's actions."
A news release from Lac Seul First Nation, dated Sept. 12, said the community has suspended ties with one of the partners in the firm, Doug Keshen, but not Will Major.
"By suspending the services of Douglas Keshen, but not the entire firm, we are trying to find the right balance that serves the best interest of the entire membership," Chief Clifford Bull said in the release.
But the chief said ending the relationship with Major would jeopardize an ongoing court case.
"It's been my belief that you can't have one foot in the door, and the other out," Angeconeb said. "The First Nation really has to support the survivors as they pursue their own struggles, before supporting lawyers who've worked with the First Nation."
Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, helped mediate the dispute.
Angeconeb is a diabetic who also has a muscular degenerative disease, so going without food and medications created significant risks.