Read this story from the Toronto Star on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to meet with First Nations chiefs on January 11, amid mounting pressure from the Idle No More movement and hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Teresa Spence. (Jan 4, 2012)
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper has offered to meet with a delegation of First Nations leaders to discuss treaty and aboriginal rights and economic development.
“I will be participating in a working meeting with a delegation of First Nations leaders co-ordinated by the Assembly of First Nations on Jan. 11,” Harper said in a statement Friday.
The statement was issued to the media minutes before aboriginal leaders were set to begin a news conference about the continuing hunger strike of Theresa Spence, chief of the struggling Cree community of Attawapiskat in northern Ontario.
The prime minister has been under mounting pressure to sit down with First Nation leaders as the result of a nationwide protest movement known as Idle No More, which gathered more steam when Spence began her hunger strike on Victoria Island, in the Ottawa River, on Dec. 11.
Danny Metatawabin, a close supporter and spokesman for Spence, said he started to cry when he heard the news of the proposed meeting Friday morning.
“Tears started to come down my eyes and I had to hold off my tears because I wanted to share my tears with Chief Theresa and all the helpers that came to support her,” Metatawabin said at a news conference in Ottawa.
“It’s a small step of a very big process that we have to go through to rebuild that nation-to-nation relationship.”
Metatawabin and others said that Spence, who is in good spirits but showing “signs of fatigue,” will continue her hunger strike until the Jan. 11 meeting actually takes place.
They suggested this would be enough to satisfy the demand Spence has made to meet Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston to discuss issues facing First Nations people, but noted the meeting could not be the end of the road.
“It will not take just one meeting to fix that relationship that has been broken or that is broken,” said Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.