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Protests take on holiday festivities


Last updated 1/18/2013 at 7:09pm

Cole Grey, Compass Studios

Idle No More flash mob in the CORE Shopping Centre in downtown Calgary.

VICTORIA ISLAND, ON—The Christmas festivities took on an unusual tone with flash mobs, a rail blockade and continued social media campaigns that have swept across Canada and don’t show signs of letting up.

Coinciding with this is a hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence whose fast is aimed at gaining a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper together with First Nations leaders and a member of the Crown.

According to those close to the chief, Spence is fasting for many reasons that are important to Aboriginals. Since she began her fast on December 11, 2012, the chief has only had tea and fish broth but she presses on for her meeting with the prime minister.

The Idle No More protests have swept across the country taking over shopping malls in Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, with flash mob round dances. In Regina, Saskatchewan, a group of women conducted a four-day fast in support of Chief Spence. Shawna Oochoo said that she considers it an honor to stand in solidarity with the Attawapiskat chief.

Another protest was held in northwestern British Columbia on December 28. Singers and dancers gathered in the Skeena Mall in Terrace.

Idle No More is bringing attention to many issues facing Canada’s Aboriginal peoples but primary among them is a call to block Bill C-45 which threatens many First Nations treaty rights and environmental protections.

Canada’s Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, John Duncan, has reached out to Chief Spence in an effort to meet to find ways of getting her to end her strike. However, the chief has refused to meet with Duncan.

The minister has expressed disappointment that Spence will meet with other politicians but not him. Duncan is responsible for Aboriginal Affairs for the Canadian government. He offered to set up a group of senior federal and First Nations representatives to meet with the chief but without success.

CP/Cole Burston

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence talks with her family as she continues her hunger strike on Victoria Island in Ottawa.

Canada’s Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Inuk, has urged the Northern Ontario chief to meet with Duncan. “Aboriginal policy in Canada is Duncan’s job and therefore he’s the one who should be meeting with the Attawapiskat chief.

Spence has emerged as a movement hero and has had plenty of support from people such as Saulteaux actor Adam Beach, who stopped by over Christmas. And, on Boxing Day, she met with Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau. Her daughters and her partner, Clayton Kennedy, are also in Ottawa this week, and the atmosphere in the log-walled compound on Victoria Island is celebratory. Member of Parliament Charlie Angus said on December 27 that Spence’s hunger strike had entered a deadly serious phase. Angus, who stood with Spence as she began her fast, says he’s reaching out to area chiefs to see what steps can be taken in solving this crisis.

“This is much bigger than Theresa Spence, it’s much bigger than any individual community,” Angus said.


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