APTN National News
Chief Theresa Spence is planning her exit strategy to end her weeks-old fast Thursday by demanding a commitment from federal opposition leaders and chiefs to press the Conservative government on a list of demands going forward.
The list includes the eight points laid out by the Assembly of First Nations to Prime Minister Stephen Harper during their meeting Jan. 11, that included proper funding for education and respect of treaties.
“The eight-point plan, plus straightforward additional commitments that reflect our needs in our communities in terms of housing, in terms of funding issues. All those things have to come into play. All those things need to be discussed openly and transparently,” said Spence spokesperson Danny Metatawabin to APTN National News Wednesday. The full story airs tonight on the APTN National News.
Spence and her supporters have been in discussion with Liberal leader Bob Rae and NDP MP Romeo Saganash, who is said to be leading the negotiations, to determine the list of demands and ensure their parties are on board to campaign on behalf of First Nations.
“I’ve been involved for some time now in trying to allow Chief Spence to end her fast with dignity. This has meant extensive discussions with the AFN, individual chiefs, Chief Spence and her team, and others,” said Rae in a statement. “She has done a lot to galvanize opinion around an issue of critical importance to Canadians.”
If they don’t sign on Spence said she will continue her fast that began Dec. 11 on Victoria Island in Ottawa.
Also on the list is demands original demand – a meeting between Harper, the governor general and First Nation leaders.
Metatawabin said they don’t feel a commitment was made from the Jan. 11 meeting, although Harper said there would be further meetings, but the next one will only be with AFN national chief Shawn Atleo.
“We stand firm. We stand united to add those commitments on to a declaration and endorsed by chiefs and endorsed by opposition parties to carry this forward,” Metatawabin said Wednesday. “Everybody is in all this together and we need to support that movement together for future generations.”
He said accepting to carry the torch, so to speak, for Spence and First Nations is what they need to see before Spence packs up and heads back to Attawapiskat as members of her band council head to Ottawa to demand she quit her fast or quit her role as chief of their community.
“It’s up to (the leaders) to accept those commitments and if they don’t accept those commitments we continue here,” said Metatawabin, who believes they’ll be successful in achieving their goals. “Eventually we will get there.”
A source close to APTN National News said Wednesday morning Spence will end her fast Thursday, the same day a ceremony is being held in Ottawa to honour Spence.