Health Minister urges Chief Spence to end fast

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq



OTTAWA - Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is urging Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to end her hunger strike and meet with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

Aglukkaq, Canada's first Inuit cabinet minister, says meeting with Duncan is "the best way to address her issues."

Spence, who is entering the third week of her protest surviving on fish broth and tea, is demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and First Nations leaders.

She has twice ignored Duncan's request for a meeting but did spend 45 minutes with Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau earlier this week.

Aglukkaq also defended the Conservative government's record on the aboriginal affairs file. She pointed to the gathering last January when over 170 chiefs from across Canada met with Harper, Johnston and 12 cabinet ministers.

"Through that process, a number of recommendations were made," she said. "Those recommendations were given to our government to respond to and we are doing that."

Aglukkaq wouldn't respond directly to questions about the nationwide Idle No More movement, saying only the Conservative government has made "unprecedented" investments in First Nations and Inuit communities.

The protesters want more aboriginal sovereignty and more input on federal legislation.

On Friday, journalists were refused entry into the compound on Victoria Island, located on the Ottawa River just a short distance from Parliament Hill, where Spence is staying.

But in an interview with Sun News Network on Wednesday, Spence asked why Harper "is afraid to meet with" First Nations.

"It's a simple request," she said.

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