By Annette Francis
APTN National News
In the light of the crescent moon the Sunrise Ceremony begins marking the start of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike Tuesday in Ottawa.
Spence is holding the hunger strike to force a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper or the Queen to have them respect treaty rights.
First Nation peoples across the country have expressed support for Spence, some deciding to fast for a day in solidarity. The Samson Cree Nation scheduled to hold an hour blockade of a highway in support Wednesday as well.
“I think that’s what keeps me going,” said Spence who is holding her hunger strike on Victoria Island that sits below Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada. “All the support and kind words and all the prayers I’m going to be doing, especially with this ceremony that happened this morning, it keeps me going.”
Jason Arbour was at the ceremony Tuesday to show his respect for Spence.
Arbour said Harper isn’t handling things properly.
“Again, he’s making legislation without any presence which is illegal and repugnant to English law. I believe he needs to sit down with the people and do things properly,” he said.
Ken Billings said legislation like Bill C-45 is concerning not only for First Nations, but all of Canadians.
“I think it’s a grave concern that our government is not listening to our voices and not respecting our rights and it’s come to this and if it doesn’t spark Canadians I don’t think nothing will,” said Billings. “This is our basic rights and clean water and food is everybody’s concern.”
Spence will be living in a teepee during her protest.
She’ll refuse food until her demands are met. Her last meal was an eight ounce steak and baked potatoes. She also said the housing crisis in her community, that made headlines around the world a year ago, remains unresolved.
But the parliamentary secretary of Aboriginal Affairs said it’s unfortunate that Spence has taken this measure of protest.
Greg Rickford said the department wrote Spence last week offering to visit Attawapiskat to ensure the community has what it needs as winter approaches.
“We’ve made repeated requests and offers including support to work with the community to help develop a long-term housing strategy and we’re waiting for that report, this is a governance issue and we hope that Chief Spence and her council put that housing strategy out to us,” said Rickford.
Spence will be monitored by the close eye of an elder. The RCMP isn’t too far away either.