Yahoo! Exclusive: Chief to continue strike after PM meeting, unless ‘concrete commitment’ is reached

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

While Theresa Spence is getting weak, the Attawapiskat chief plans to continue her hunger strike at least until Friday's First Nations meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and maybe even after that, her spokesperson says.

Spence began her liquids-only strike on Dec. 11, adding fuel to the grassroots Idle No More movement growing since October.

In a telephone interview with Yahoo! Canada News on Sunday morning, Spence's spokesperson Danny Metatawabin discussed the chief's health, her expectations for the Jan. 11 meeting and the recent media attacks against her.

Here are some excerpts from that interview.

Yahoo! Canada News: How is Chief Spence doing?

Metatawabin: Health wise, you know as each day goes by now it's getting critical. She's weak, tired, fatigued, she's [starting] to sleep more. She needs to rest more than before. I believe this is her day 27 so, myself, I'm surprised that she has come this far.

Yahoo! Canada News: Is she going to be able to continue to hunger strike until Jan. 11?

Metatawabin: I believe so, yes. She is a strong-willed, strong individual. And I believe she will be there for that meeting.

Yahoo! Canada News: What does Chief Spence want to see come out of that meeting?

Metatawabin: We need a concrete plan. We need a concrete commitment from both levels of governments, from the Governor General, that respects and honours the treaty obligations.

We just want to be equal partners in our nation to nation relationship. We just want our place within the Canadian society. For far too long, too many decades have gone by where our communities have been forgotten. We still have a housing crisis, a health crisis, our infrastructure is not there.

We just want to be equal partners with resource revenue sharing and we want to protect our lands.

You need to ask us, you need to work with us and we can share in resources, share in lands, protect the lands together. Not one nation can do that without the other nation.

Yahoo! Canada News: If you don't get that commitment on Jan. 11, will Chief Spence continue her hunger strike?

Metatawabin: If Chief Spence along with Raymond Robinson — if both are not satisfied with the outcome of the meeting on Jan. 11, they have made the commitment to continue with their hunger strike.

Yahoo! Canada News: There's been a lot of criticism from some in the media about Chief Spence's hunger strike. You've got Ezra Levant from Sun News who talks about Chief Spence's salary, her 'boyfriend's' job that pays $850/day and about the $90 million stock portfolio owned by the Attawapiskat band. Is Chief Spence seeing these stories?

[ Related: Chief’s strike continues amid growing list of critics ]

Metatawabin: We're not here to focus on any negative comments or any negative news articles. Chief Spence is here for a purpose [and] the purpose does not all have to do with her or her community. The purpose is about the people.

She's deep in thought. She's deep in her prayers. We don't want any negativity to come at her. We need to protect her. We need to protect her safety.

All of those negative comments or unsubstantiated facts are just...not true.

Of course, the right-wing will say that they have been giving so many million of dollars. But that's not true, the millions of dollars that is supposed to go to our First Nations communities stops at the departmental level, stops at the regional offices.

We only get peanuts to operate our First Nations communities, peanuts to operate our education standards and peanuts to operate our healthcare programs. We don't even get proper training dollars for Chief and councils. The money we get is crumbs.

Yahoo! Canada News: Has Chief Spence been watching yesterday's Idle No More protests?

[ Related: Idle No More targets Canadian travel routes ]

Metatawabin: Like I said, we try not to disturb Chief Spence and her focus.

But we do tell her what is going on out there. We do tell her about the Idle No More movement.

One simple message that we all share [with] Chief Theresa is we all do this in a unified and respectful and peaceful way.

We remind people to be respectful.

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