APTN National News
OTTAWA–Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence plans to begin a hunger strike in Ottawa this week and continue until Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Queen agree to a treaty meeting with First Nations in Canada or she meets her “ancestors.”
Spence was supposed to begin her hunger strike in Ottawa Monday morning but weather delayed her flight into the city from Toronto. Spence arrived in the city at about 11 a.m. and she planned to hold a press conference later in the day. She was also scheduled to have a conference call with former AFN candidate Pam Palmater and members from the Idle No More campaign, which also kicked off Monday.
Spence plans to begin her hunger strike on Tuesday morning.
Spence said in an open-letter she wouldn’t end her hunger strike until Harper and Queen Elizabeth II or one of her representatives agreed to the treaty meeting.
“I will return to my traditional territory after such a meeting is held, or return to spend time with my ancestors in the traditional lands of my people,” said Spence, in an open letter released early Monday morning.
In the open letter, Spence said she decided to go on a hunger strike after “months” of consideration and meetings with elders.
“After a long period of reflection, the time is at hand for a clear statement,” said Spence.
Spence said the Canadian government was trying to “isolate” and “assimilate” First Nations people.
“This process of marginalizing our political leadership, along with the enforced segregation of our people is part of a deliberate (attempt) to isolate our people, marginalize our people and ultimately assimilate our people so that our rich heritage can be wiped out and the great bounty contained in our traditional lands be made available for exploitation by large multi-national companies,” said Spence.
Spence plans to spend her days during the hunger strike on Parliament Hill and her evenings on nearby Victoria Island where she will sleep inside a cabin there.
The Attawapiskat chief will be meeting with Assembly of First Nations officials before beginning her hunger strike. The AFN is helping her with her protest, said Danny Metatawbin, from Attawapiskat. An AFN spokeswoman said Spence’s hunger strike was “a personal initiative.”
Spence’s community of Attawapiskat burst onto the national consciousness last fall after images of the community’s deplorable housing flashed across the country’s television screens.
The Harper government, however, attacked the community, blaming the band for its housing situation. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan took away the band’s control over its finances and imposed a third-party manager.