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20 December 2012
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: CPT stands with
Chief Theresa Spence on hunger strike
by Chris Sabas
The Canadian Government
has proposed or enacted new legislation and amended existing laws that terminate
many First Nations’ treaty rights.
Bill C-45, enacted
14 December, includes changes to the Indian Act that indigenous people claim
weaken environmental laws and affect both the way reserve lands are leased and the
way decisions involving band territories are made. Before the bill passed, Chief
Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation began a hunger strike on Parliament
Hill in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, which is located on un-ceded Algonquin
Anishinabe community in Northern Ontario, made headlines last fall/winter
during a severe housing crisis that followed decades of governmental neglect.
The government’s response – stripping the First Nation of its financial sovereignty
– was later ruled
“unreasonable” by a Canadian Federal court.
“I’m willing to
die for my people because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government
to realize what [it’s] doing to us,” commented Chief Spence as she began the hunger
strike. After nine days, her condition appears to be weakening. Living inside a
teepee, she is spending most of her time in prayer and drinking water only twice
a day. She recently told CBC’s Chris Rands that she will
stay on Parliament Hill until “my last breath, if it takes that long.”
She has requested a
meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and England’s Queen
Elizabeth II, or her representative in Canada, Governor General David Johnston.
Spence asserts that the treaties at issue were signed by the Crown and it is up
to the Crown to ensure they are upheld.
strike is a part of a wider movement of First Nation activists across Canada
who have united on social media and at public rallies since mid-October. Known as Idle No More, the campaign was started by four women
from Saskatchewan protesting a number of bills before Parliament, including
C-45. They want First Nations to be recognized as sovereign stakeholders in
decisions affecting land and resources.
Peacemaker Teams’ Aboriginal Justice Team stands in solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence. We call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and
the Canadian government to stop violating the constitutionally protected
Aboriginal treaty rights in lands, waters and resources and to meet with Chief
Spence. We also call on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to join the discussion.
In addition to
Bill C-45, the following proposed bills will directly affect First Nations
- C-27 First Nations
Financial Transparency Act
- S-2 Family Homes on
Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Right Act
- S-6 First Nations
- S-8 Safe Drinking Water
for First Nations
- C-428 Indian Act
Amendment and Replacement Act
- S-207 An Act to amend
the Interpretation Act
- S-212 First Nations
Self-Government Recognition and the “First Nations” Private Ownership Act
CPTer Colin Stuart and
supporters in Ottawa will hand deliver a letter of support to Chief Spence during a planned Idle No More rally in support
of her hunger strike on Friday, 21 December.
Our prayers remain with Chief Theresa Spence.