Chief Spence maintains hunger strike —despite Ottawa meetings
Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation attended a meeting with Canada's Gov-Gen. David Johnston Jan. 11, but left official residence Rideau Hall early to announce that her hunger strike will continue. "It didn't feel too good inside that house...but we stood up for your rights," Danny Metatawabin, who speaks for Spence, told gathered First Nations chiefs. "Somehow it felt like a show, a picture opportunity. What’s happening here is not done yet. It’s not over yet. Sadly, the hunger strike continues." He said that a wampum belt Johnston had been presented as a good will gesture by First Nations leaders at a meeting last January had been disrespected in the "ceremonial" meeting with Spence.
An earlier meeting that day between First Nations leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper was boycotted by Spence on the grounds that Johnston would not be present; she attended that later "ceremonial" meeting with Johnston. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and 19 other First Nations leaders attened the meeting with Harper—despite calls for him to join Spence in boycotting it. Several chiefs, including Gordon Peters of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Nations (AIAI) in Ontario and Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, had urged Atleo to boycott the meeting. Before the meeting, Harper pledged to open an "high-level dialogue" on treaty relationships and comprehensive land claims. (Canadian Press, ICTMN, June 12)
The meetings took place amid ongoing Idle No More protests across Canada. Hundreds marched in downtown Montreal Jan. 11 in support of Chief Spence, with traditional drumming, songs and dances filling the streets. (Montreal Gazette, Jan. 11)