Blue Planet Project co-founder Maude Barlow and CEP union president Dave Coles met with Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence this afternoon inside her teepee on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Chief Spence is on the thirteenth day of her hunger strike asking for a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Governor-General of Canada, and First Nations leaders to discuss the situation being experienced by First Nations peoples across Canada. Barlow says, "Chief Spence thanked us for coming and asked us to share her struggle with the world. We promised to do so." Global water justice activists should know that Chief Spence's community in northern Ontario lacks clean drinking water and that the Canadian government has failed to take the measures necessary to ensure the United Nations-recognized right to water and sanitation for the people of Attawapiskat. Last year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya expressed concern to the Harper government about the conditions in Attawapiskat, including the lack of running water in that community. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan dismissed Anaya’s statements, describing them as a "publicity stunt". It is also important to note that the Luxembourg-based mining company De Beers owns the open-pit Victor diamond mine which is located on the Attawapiskat First Nation’s traditional lands. Concerns have been expressed about the dewatering from the mine site flowing into the Attawapiskat River, which the community relies on for fishing and to nourish local wildlife. Although it is acknowledged that the mine is on Attawapiskat traditional land, the royalties from Victor Mine, are paid to the Province of Ontario, not the Attawapiskat First Nation. Barlow adds, "We are calling on Prime Minister Harper to put politics aside at this time of year when people of all faiths are connecting with what is meaningful to them, and human to human, either meet with Chief Spence or set up a time to meet with her. If not, her death will be on his conscience." Please send your message to the Canadian Prime Minister at firstname.lastname@example.org and to the Governor-General of Canada at email@example.com demanding they meet with Chief Spence. To watch an uncut 17-minute CBC interview with Chief Spence describe her hunger strike in her own words, please go to http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Politics/ID/2318285061/. For blogs in solidarity with Chief Spence, see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22theresa+spence%22.
Photo by Josh Coles.