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NEWS: Harper agrees to meet Chief Spence, First Nations leaders on January 11

Chief Spence's spokesperson Danny Metatawabin responds to Harper's proposal for a Jan. 11 meeting at a media conference this morning.

Chief Spence’s spokesperson Danny Metatawabin responds to Harper’s proposal for a Jan. 11 meeting at a media conference this morning.

CTV reports, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to meet with First Nations leaders next Friday, a move that may end the 25-day hunger strike currently being carried out by Chief Theresa Spence. Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, will be welcome to take part in the meeting so long as the Assembly of First Nations supports her attendance, said CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife. The meeting will focus on treaty rights and economic development within First Nations communities. …Spence has not yet responded to the latest proposal. She had recently demanded a meeting with Harper within 72 hours — a window that falls well short of the Jan. 11 meeting.”

CBC adds, “It’s not clear whether Spence will be at the meeting. A spokesman for her, speaking at a press conference in Ottawa Friday, didn’t answer a questions about whether she would attend, but reiterated that her hunger strike would continue until the meeting happened.”

And Macleans magazine journalist Paul Wells Tweets, “This is a pretty substantial concession by Harper.”

That said, APTN is reporting this afternoon, “Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, on day 25 of hunger strike, says won’t break strike until she’s satisfied with outcome of Jan. 11 meeting. Spence told reporters Friday she will attend the meeting.”

It is also expected that protests will continue. Idle No More has stated on Facebook, “Idle No More activities will not stop until we reach our two goals: Indigenous sovereignty (Nation to Nation relationship) and protection of the land and water (Social and Environmental Sustainability).” Postmedia News reports, “Blockades of rail lines have taken place in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec under the Idle No More banner, and border blockades are being called for on social media.”

The list of actions is long, but CBC reports, “In a separate development, a release issued Friday morning by the Sikniktuk Mi’kmaq Rights Coalition in New Brunswick said the group has notified the RCMP that it plans to block CN Rail trains from transporting goods along the Highway 126 rail line in Adamsville, N.B., between now and Monday.” And APTN reported last night, “(On) Saturday (members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia) will attempt to block traffic on the Blue Water Bridge that also serves as the US/Canada border access. And then they’re going to get strategic explains spokesman Ron Plain (including the use of 12-hour, 24-hour, and 36-hour roving blockades)… They intend to shut down access to selected factories here for up to days at a time in the area known as Chemical Valley.”

For Council of Canadians campaign blogs in support of Chief Spence, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22chief+theresa%22. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow met with Chief Spence on Dec. 23, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18631. At that time, Barlow said, “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.”