Spence supporters vow native ‘struggle will continue’
by Shumu Haque
The hunger strike by First Nation Attawapiskat’s Chief of Council Theresa Spence may have ended, but her supporters say the struggle to ensure equal opportunities for the aboriginal people will continue.
Following the end of a six-week hunger strike by Spence, her spokesperson, Danny Metatawabin, said, “the fight does not end because the hunger strike ends, the struggle will continue.”
Spence and Manitoba First Nations Elder Raymond Robinson wrapped up the hunger strike in Ottawa on Thursday morning.
Spence and Robinson made the decision once representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, the NDP caucus and the federal Liberal caucus endorsed a declaration of specific commitments asked for by Spence.
Spence herself could not attend the press conference, or any of the scheduled events in her honour because she was hospitalized Wednesday night following the 44 days of a strict liquid only diet.
In response to a question about whether or not it counted as the hunger strike, which consisted of fish broth and herbal tea, asked during the press conference, Metatawabin said there has been no tactic behind the strike.
“We just want to be honored and respected,” he said, adding that the only “tactic” has been from the government not to honor and respect the treatise with aboriginal people.
Liberal interim leader Bob Rae attended the conference, and pledged his party’s continued support toward the cause Spence has been fighting for.
“I would like to express our party’s continued resolve to work inside and outside Parliament – on a nation-to-nation basis – to address the gross inequalities facing First Nations,” Rae said.
“The government simply has to honor and acknowledge the treaties that they made with the native people of Canada over the 150 years. And unless the government is going to honor those agreements, we could have more hunger strikes,” – Shelley Charles, Elder Advisor on Aboriginal Relations at Humber College.
Shelley Charles, Elder Advisor on Aboriginal Relations at Humber College, said the struggle needs to be about accomplishing the goals and having the voices of the aboriginal people heard.
“There’s no political agenda, it (has to be) just about how can we get the goals accomplished and get our voices heard,” Charles said, stressing that it’s important to have an inter-generational-approach in getting strategic developments done along with a vision to move forward with the struggle.
During the press conference, aboriginal leaders stressed the importance of the Canadian government honoring various treaties with Aboriginal People made throughout history .
Charles also stressed on the importance of honoring the treaties between the government and the aboriginal people.
“The government simply has to honor and acknowledge the treaties that they made with the native people of Canada over the 150 years,” she said.
“Unless the government is going to honor those agreements, we could have more hunger strikes,” said Charles.