Attawapiskat First Nation
Chief Spence Announces Hunger Strike in Ottawa
ATTAWAPISKAT, ON – 11 December 2012. Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation began a hunger strike today in protest of continuing governmental abuses against First Nations. Chief Spence stated: “Canada is violating the right of Indigenous peoples to be self-determining and continues to ignore our constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights in their lands, waters, and resources.”
Chief Spence is profoundly concerned with the hostile and adversarial approach of the Federal Government which is characterized by an intimidating and unilateral approach to working First Nations. Instead of being an advocate of First Nations, the Minister’s office is used to mislead the public about the facts of First Nation social realities and often deflects responsibility by casting blame on First Nations themselves.
First Nations are already severely and chronically underfunded on basic essential services like housing, water, food and education. These discriminatory practices have led to the current poverty crisis which impacts many First Nations which often suffer from multiple over-lapping crises in housing, water, sanitation, food insecurity, health and education.
Attawapiskat First Nation previously declared a State of Emergency in housing as some of their members were living in unheated sheds. Instead of offering assistance, Canada illegally placed the community into third-party management despite there being no problems with their audits. Shortly after the court case confirming Canada’s illegal actions, their proposal for housing was denied, leaving many community members without homes this winter.
Canada has since embarked on an aggressive, assimilatory legislative agenda without having first consulted, accommodated and obtained the consent of First Nations as required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Further, Canada has attempted to silence First Nation voices by cutting essential funding at both the organizational and community levels. This is not what was envisioned in the treaty relationship.
Chief Spence feels that this backwards approach is not only poisoning Canada’s relationship with First Nations, but will irrevocably destroy the lands and waters that all Canadians need for sustainability and balance. Canada’s actions against First Nations will impact the future generations of all Canadians. She feels that Canada must withdraw the recent suite of legislation being imposed without First Nation consent and reverse its decision to cut funding to First Nation organizations and communities.
Chief Spence is encouraging First Nation leaders to support her on this hunger strike. She will remain on this hunger strike until both Her Majesty the Queen and the Canadian government agree to meet with First Nation leaders and engage in meaningful dialogue on our rights.
Attawapiskat First Nation is a remote, isolated First Nation in North Eastern Ontario, whose traditional territory includes lands around the Attawapiskat and Ekwan river systems in Northern Ontario. They form part of the Cree Nation and are affiliated with the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council.
Attawapiskat First Nation comprises 3,429 band members with approximately 1,800 on-reserve members. Chief Spence also sent an open letter to her membership yesterday (which is attached).
For further information, please contact Chief Theresa Spence (807) 629-6704), or by email to Theresa.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exclusive CBC interview on 8th day of hunger strike (Dec 18th) – 17min:
Article by IPSMO member Greg Macdougall:
Idle No More: What does Chief Spence’s hunger strike mean?