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Marking the one-year anniversary of Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike

Photo: Michael DancingEagle Cassidy

Today is the one-year anniversary of the start of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence's 44-day hunger strike seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Queen and First Nations leaders to address Treaty violations.

This 17-minute uncut CBC interview from Day 8 of her hunger strike reminds us of the power of her words and that moment in time.

The Council of Canadians first expressed our solidarity with Chief Spence's hunger strike the evening before it began, one year ago today, and was consistently supportive of her efforts. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, with then CEP president Dave Coles, met with Chief Spence on December 23. That day we also called on the global water justice movement to support Chief Spence, particularly with respect to the human right to water and sanitation. Barlow then returned her Diamond Jubilee medal to Rideau Hall to press the Governor-General to meet with Chief Spence, the Prime Minister and First Nations leaders. And key organizers for Chief Spence and Idle No More met with us often in our Ottawa office during that time and it was an honour to provide support to them.

More than a year before the hunger strike, we noted in a campaign blog that the Attawapiskat First Nation lacked clean drinking water and called on the federal and provincial governments to take emergency action to ensure the United Nations-recognized right to water and sanitation. We also repeated our call for $1 billion to be spent that fiscal year to build, upgrade and maintain water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations.

Chief Spence ended her hunger strike on January 23 with the (still unfulfilled) promise from various groups of commitment to a 13-point declaration.

This week, the Council of Canadians provided funding to help support a gathering and various activities to mark this anniversary and to press for greater action on that declaration.

Photo: Michael DancingEagle Cassidy

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