Canada
Feds and First Nations still at odds despite hunger strike and protests

A rally in support of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence and her ongoing hunger strike.

KRISTY KIRKUP | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - Aboriginal leaders say a life is at risk because First Nations and the feds continue to be at odds over calls for talks on treaty implementation.

Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence launched a hunger strike in the shadows of Parliament Hill two weeks ago and said she is willing to die in an attempt to get the feds, the Crown and aboriginal leaders to discuss treaties originally signed in the spirit of partnership.

Spence's personal protest was ignited by the recent passage of the government's second omnibus budget bill and has the support of a growing grassroots Nations movement called "Idle No More."

First Nations leaders hammered the passage of Bill C-45, which revokes federal environmental protections, including measures applying to lakes and rivers in the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Prior to the passage of the bill, First Nations leaders tried to enter the chamber of the House of Commons in early December to demand consultation but were confronted by security guards.

The Idle No More campaign, which has ignited on social media and gathering momentum for a number of weeks, is now the driving force behind a number of demonstrations across Canada including a four-day blockade of CN Rail in Sarnia, Ont.

Organizers say the action to block the rail line will continue until Harper responds to the request for a meeting.

The prime minister's office has not updated its statement on the demand for a meeting since last week.
"The prime minister hosted an historic gathering of the Crown and First Nations this past January. Since then, the government has been working with First Nations leadership to make progress in several areas," spokesman Carl Vallee said. "The prime minister met with (Assembly of First Nations) National Chief Atleo on Nov. 28 to review the progress to date and to discuss a range of issues."

Atleo said it isn't just about one meeting with one chief.

"I would call this a moment of great awakening - a broad awakening amongst all of our people," Atleo said. "They are also reaching out to call Canadians to say we are absolutely in this together, we are all treaty people."

Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau indicated on Twitter he tried to meet Spence on Monday in Ottawa, but the chief rejected the offer.

In an interview on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) last week, Brazeau suggested Spence was not setting a good example for aboriginal youth.

Other demonstrations have also taken place in cities including Vancouver, Saskatoon, Sask., London, Ont., and Ottawa. Online organizers have also posted information on social media site Facebook indicating plans are in the works to block all border crossings in protest Jan. 5.

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