Credits: JEROLD LEBLANC PHOTO/WETASKIWIN TIMES/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA — It seems Prime Minister Stephen Harper and aboriginal demonstrators remain at a stalemate after weeks of blockades, protests and a high-profile hunger strike in Ottawa.
Aboriginal protesters, who have participated in a number of protests and blockades across the country, want the federal government and the Crown to discuss treaty implementation and a variety of problems plaguing First Nations communities including a lack of safe drinking water, housing problems, educational gaps and violence against Indigenous women.
Former auditor general Sheila Fraser also referenced some of the "unacceptable" conditions in First Nations communities before she left her decade-long post as federal fiscal watchdog in 2011.
Harper's office, however, has not updated a statement on the call for treaty talks since Dec. 20 and there has been no suggestion a meeting with First Nations is in the cards.
Harper agreed to a historic Crown-First Nation gathering in Ottawa in January 2012, but aboriginal leaders have hammered the rate of progress since this one-day session.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan was not available for an interview requested on Monday but a spokesman called for a halt of recent railway blockades.
First Nations protesters have blocked the CN railway near Sarnia, Ont., and Vancouver, and Mohawks blocked a rail line between Toronto and Montreal on Sunday.
"We urge an end to illegal blockades and expect the protesters to respect the law," Duncan's spokesman Jason MacDonald said in an e-mail exchange.
MacDonald also referenced a numbers of projects the feds have funded in an effort to boost conditions in First Nations communities.
Duncan has offered to meet a hunger-striking Ontario chief in Ottawa but that has been repeatedly rejected.
Duncan and Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence have long-standing issues stemming back to a high-profile housing crisis in the community that made international headlines last winter.
For the last 21 days, Spence has been eating fish soup and has been camped out at Victoria Island in Ottawa in a bid to get the feds to talk to First Nations about growing concerns.
Spence's efforts were ignited by the recent passage of the government's second omnibus budget bill and has the support of a growing grassroots aboriginal movement called "Idle No More."
First Nations leaders have heavily criticized the passage of Bill C-45, which revokes federal environmental protections, including measures applying to lakes and rivers in the Navigable Waters Protection Act.