News / Ottawa

Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence to launch hunger strike on Parliament Hill

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence said she is not afraid to die from a hunger strike she plans to launch Tuesday on Parliament Hill to force a treaty meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a representative from Queen Elizabeth II, and First Nations leaders.

She argued the Conservative government is turning its back on First Nations’ treaties and she was left with no choice but to send a clear message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“It’s time for the Prime Minister to honour it and respect our leaders,” said Spence in front of the Peace Tower at a press conference.

“That treaty, it was about partnership, and peace, to build up our country together as partners. But that hasn’t been happening. It seems the (Prime) Minister is on his own. He’s making plans without consulting us or even inviting the leadership to the table and say, ‘OK, let’s plan the future together.’”

Last week, First Nations leaders tried to storm their way into the House of Commons to express their concern about provisions in the latest omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45.

Thousands of lakes and streams were removed from federal protection under changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

“It’s time to tell the government we need to have a better dialogue to have a partnership,” said Spence. “As we speak, our people are suffering because of the situation that’s made by the government.”

The housing crisis in her Northern Ontario reserve which made national headlines in October 2011 is still the same, she said.

“People are still living in trailers,” she said, adding that Attawapiskat residents are still asking for more resources. “The crisis is still on.”

She said she consulted with her leaders before making the decision to start a hunger strike. She hopes Harper will agree to meet to protect the treaty.

"I’m willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government to realize what he’s doing to us."

Her press conference coincided with "Idle No more" rallies held in other regions across Canada to protest measures in Bill C-45.

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