Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa – www.ipsmo.org

December 11, 2012

Chief Spence Announces Hunger Strike in Ottawa

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.spence@attawapiskat.org.
 
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UPDATED:
 
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?
 

January 8, 2012

Solidarity with Attawapiskat! Learn, Speak up, and Rally on Feb. 14 2012!!

As the crisis of inadequate housing and colonial repression continues in Attawapiskat and other First Nations, what can we do to hold our governments accountable for the prevalent violence deliberately perpetrated against these unique peoples?

Photo Credit: Liam Sharp,

With our gratitude and respect to the original peoples of this land we live on, and acknowledgement of the over 500 years of their resistance to colonialism, patriarchy and racism, in the spirit of reconciliation, we ask all to show solidarity by:

  1. learning about the root causes of the crisis;
  2. speaking out against the governments and media’s misrepresentation of the issues;
  3. rallying in front of the Supreme Court of Canada on Tuesday, February 14 at 10:30 am as it hears a landmark human rights case on Canada’s systematic underfunding of services on First Nations reserves; and
  4. attending the court to show your solidarity during the hearing of this unprecedented human rights case (Feb. 13-15) at the Supreme Court of Canada

Details about each of these actions follow, below.

1. Learn more

Check out the link below for an overview and other insightful analysis of the crisis in Attawapiskat:

Canadian Colonialism: The Attawapiskat Humanitarian Crisis – an Example of Continuing Oppression and Genocide by Canadian Government: https://ipsmo.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/canadian-colonialism-the-attawapiskat/

Students putting letters supporting Shannen's Dream in school house mail box. Source: Shannen's Dream gallery http://www.fncfcs.com/shannensdream/gallery

2. Speak out

We must speak out against skewed, colonialist misrepresentations of the situation wherever we encounter them in our daily lives.

We also must let public officials know about our disgust with the federal government’s shameful victim-blaming response to the humanitarian emergency in Attawapiskat, and the Ontario government’s irresponsibility to the well-being of the First Nation. We must demand peace, justice and equity for all of First Nations peoples. It is our responsibility.

Here are a few suggestions for officials to write to:

  • John Duncan, Federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development: minister@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca, Phone: 819-997-0002, FAX: 819 953 4941
  • Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs: minister.maa@ontario.ca
  • Joanne Wilkinson, Ontario Regional Director General of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada: Phone: 416-973-6201
  • Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada: pm@pm.gc.ca, stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca, Phone: 613-992-4211, Fax: 613-941-6900
  • Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org, Phone: 416-325-1941, Fax: 416-325-3745
  • David Johnston, Governor General of Canada: info@gg.ca, Phone: 613-993-8200, Fax: 613-998-8760

You can also contact your member of Parliament (contact info can be found here: http://bit.ly/pKCBj4), and member of Provincial Parliament (see http://bit.ly/dl8sdz)

3. Attend Have a Heart Day Rally 

Tuesday, February 14th
10:30 am ~ 11:30 am
Parliament Hill, unceded Algonquin Territory

Bring your creative signs to support First Nations children!

“Have a heart for First Nations Children” image source: http://www.fncfcs.com/have-a-heart/cards

From February 13th to 15th, the Federal Court will hear an appeal on a human rights case that challenges Canada’s racially discriminatory underfunding of children’s welfare services on First Nations reserves by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (the Caring Society) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Timed to coincide with this hearing, the Caring Society has declared February 14th “Have a Heart Day for First Nations children”.

Allies of First Nations children, led by the students of Lady Evelyn Alternative School and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School, are organizing a rally in front of the courthouse to show Canada we care about First Nations children!

The case is relevant to Attawapiskat because it centres on the principle of culturally based equity that essential services accessed by First Nations children and families on reserves should be funded at a level equal to the funding level for all of Canadian residents. If the Caring Society and AFN are successful in this human rights case, it will set a precedent to address funding inequities in all areas on reserves, including housing, education, recreation, health care, clean water and sanitation. Canada is not arguing this case on the facts relevant to whether discrimination is occurring rather they are trying to avoid a hearing on this matter using legal loopholes.

For more information on this historic event: www.fnwitness.ca

We are calling upon peoples to attend the rally on Feb. 14 at 10:30 am in front of the Supreme Court of Canada (301 Wellington Street).

4. Court Support throughout the Federal Court Appeal on the child welfare case

Feb 13-15, 2012
9:30 am ~ 4:30 pm
(10:30, 2:30 coffee break & noon-1pm lunch break)
Federal Court
90 Spark Street, Ottawa, unceded Algonquin Territory

The Caring Society is calling upon observers to attend the hearing of the appeal throughout these three days.

For more information on this appeal please see above or check this web site: www.fnwitness.ca. If you have any questions regarding this court support, please e-mail Sylvia at info@projectofheart.ca.

“I am a Witness” Image source: http://www.fncfcs.com/fnwitness

Image credit: First Nations Child and Family Caring Society

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