Mulcair and former AFN National Chief call for Spence to end strike



OTTAWA - Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence should take a "step back" from her strike efforts in wake of recent inroads made between First Nations and the feds, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Sunday.

"I would sincerely call upon Chief Spence to realize that there has been a step in the right direction, to try and see now if we can keep putting pressure on the government to follow through," Mulcair said during an interview with CTV's Question Period following a few weeks of silence on recent First Nations protests. "I think that the best thing to do would be to step back from that now."

Spence has vowed to continue consuming only liquids until Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with a large body of aboriginal leaders and Gov. Gen. David Johnston. She has been set up at Ottawa's Victoria Island since Dec. 11.

Harper met with Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn Atleo and other aboriginal leaders on Friday afternoon but some chiefs, including Spence, wanted leaders to boycott the meeting over the lack of Johnston's presence. First Nations leaders also wanted additional chiefs to be included in the talks.

In mid-December, Mulcair wrote an open letter to Harper calling on the prime minister to meet First Nations leaders and to "act swiftly to avoid a personal tragedy" for Spence.

"We can understand the frustration. But I think we show a lot of respect for the chiefs who were there negotiating and working hard on Friday, when we acknowledge that there has been movement," Mulcair told CTV. "I think we should be supportive of them."

Matthew Coon Come, a current Quebec Grand Chief and former AFN national chief, also told the CBC Spence should end her efforts following Friday's discussions.

Some chiefs who support Spence - who have hammered Atleo for his approach to dealing with the feds - are planning a 'national day of action' set to include road blockades in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba on Wednesday.

Spence has been unavailable to take questions directly from reporters this week.

In a statement released earlier this week, Spence slammed the leak of outside financial audit as a 'distraction.'

The Deloitte review, which covered reserve finances from 2005 to 2011, suggested there was a mission paper trail for $100 million in reserve spending. Spence became chief in 2010.

It also pointed to inadequate financial controls from the Aboriginal Affairs department.

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