What Is It Going to Take For PM Stephen Harper to Meet With Chief Theresa Spence?:
By: Christine McFarlane
What will it take for Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper to sit down and speak with Chief Theresa Spence? Will it take all First Nations and allies to continue stand- ins and protests, staging blockades or will it take worse before our PM Stephen Harper finally admits to himself that what he is currently doing, (which is nothing) isn’t working.
It was December 11, 2012, that Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation began a hunger strike that has largely become a focal point for the Idle No More Movement that is currently sweeping across Canada and the international stage. It was also a year ago that Chief Theresa Spence and Attawapiskat First Nation were thrust into the limelight with their housing and infrastructure crisis, where we all saw Harper famously stepping in, removing management of the community from the Chief and council and announcing third party management, which was later ruled by the courts as “wrong to do.”
Spence says “many First Nations communities face impoverished conditions despite assurances from the government that progress is being made to alleviate poverty,” and her hunger strike is not only about putting focus on First Nations issues, supporting the Idle No More Movement, highlighting concerns about Stephen Harper and his Conservative governments omnibus Bill C-45, but also striking a national discussion with First Nations leadership, the Prime Minister and Canada’s Governor-General and getting them to agree to a sit down, to talk about Canada’s treaty relationship with First Nations peoples.
Staying in a teepee, warmed by a wood stove, across from Parliament Hill, Chief Spence has entered Day 22 of her hunger strike, and subsists on lemon water, medicinal teas and fish broth once a day, nothing solid. Yet, there has been no word from our Prime Minister Stephen Harper or a sign of him showing a conscience.
How is it that he can tweet nonsensical things like “mmm..bacon..” when just mere steps away, Chief Spence is starving to get First Nations rights heard. How can he in good conscience, let Bill C-45 be passed, when he knowingly did not consult First Nations people and their leadership. We are the original owners of this land, we all call Canada.
This is a man, who on June 11, 2008 on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians offered an historic formal apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools and sought forgiveness for the students’ suffering and for the damaging impact the schools had on First Nations culture, heritage and language.
As noted on the Canadian government website, Prime Minister Harper states “The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history,” and within his apology, Harper noted that “we recognize this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country. The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.”
As a First Nations individual who has been following the Idle No More Movement since it began, I have to ask, will Stephen Harper grow a conscience and meet with First Nations people and their leadership, will he meet with Chief Theresa Spence, or will he continue on the path he is on now-blatantly disregarding First Nations peoples and their rights, to feed his need for ultimate power.
When Chief Theresa Spence first set out for Victoria Island, Idle No More was a regional protest movement that was started by four women who met on Facebook. Since then, it has ultimately exploded. It has spurred dozens of protests, blockades and has inspired thousands to demand a more equitable relationship between the federal government and First Nations peoples.
This is a note to Stephen Harper “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”
For more reading on Idle No More and Stephen Harper’s First Nation Termination Plan please visit the following links:
Please note, this post will be cross posted on Shameless Magazine's blog at www.shamelessmag.com