Chief Theresa Spence. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/ Canadian Press
APTN reports, “Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence stood at the steps leading up to the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill Monday and said she was ‘willing to die’ if the federal government ignored her call for a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Queen Elizabeth II (or a representative) and First Nations leaders. Spence plans to begin her hunger strike Tuesday morning after a sunrise ceremony on Victoria Island, just up the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill. …Spence plans to spend her days during the hunger strike on Parliament Hill and her evenings on nearby Victoria Island where she will sleep inside a structure there.”
“Spence’s community of Attawapiskat burst onto the national consciousness last fall after images of the community’s deplorable housing flashed across the country’s television screens. The Harper government, however, attacked the community, blaming the band for its housing situation. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan took away the band’s control over its finances and imposed a third-party manager. Spence said her community was still in a housing crisis with people living in sheds and trailers.”
In a November 2011 campaign blog, we noted that the Cree community of about 1,200 in northern Ontario lacked clean drinking water and called on the federal and provincial governments to take emergency action to ensure the United Nations-recognized right to water and sanitation for the people of Attawapiskat. We also repeated our call for $1 billion to be spent that fiscal year to build, upgrade and maintain water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations. The following month, 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”.
The Council of Canadians expresses its solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence and her hunger strike demanding a meeting to address the needs of her Nation. Messages of solidarity can be sent to her at email@example.com.