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Activist Communique: Idle No More activists continue the tradition of fasting for the people

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Two new Idle No More activists began fasting to bring attention to Mi’kmaq issues out on the East Coast on March 1, 2013 and continued for almost two weeks.

Shelley Young, of the Eskasoni First Nation and Jean Sock, of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, followed in the footsteps of Attawapiskat Chief, Theresa Spence, by fasting from food and taking in only liquids.

They ended their fast on Monday March 11, 2013, when members of the Idle No More movement in Nova Scotia met with their chiefs and agreed to proceed with negotiations and halt the process, regarding the Made-in-Nova Scotia Process.

The Made-in-Nova Scotia Process, “is the forum for the Mi'kmaq, Nova Scotia and Canada to resolve issues related to Mi'kmaq treaty rights, Aboriginal rights, including Aboriginal title, and Mi'kmaq governance. The process involves the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia as represented by the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs and the provincial and federal governments.

On February 23, 2007, the parties signed the Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Framework Agreement for the Made-in-Nova Scotia Process. The Framework Agreement was an important milestone because it confirmed each party's commitment to work to resolve Mi'kmaq rights issues through negotiation in a spirit of reconciliation.

The agreement set out important procedures and a list of negotiation topics to steer the parties as they proceed. As negotiations progress the Province remains guided by three Negotiation Goals by Enhanced legal clarity on rights issues; Improved and stable relations; and Reduced social and economic disparity.”

According to Angela Giles of the Council of Canadians, “Shelley spoke with me about the opposition to the "Made in Nova Scotia" process, which is the focus of the fast. If Mi'kmaq chiefs sign away treaty rights, as promoted by the Made in Nova Scotia process, this could render Idle No More efforts against Harper's Bills C-38 and C-45 effectively useless. There are serious concerns about the lack of broad-based consultation by band councils involved in this process. To read more about these concerns, see the Halifax Media Co-op piece here.”

In regards to fasting, I want to note that it is very different from the false portrayal by the mainstream media and right-wing activists like Ezra Levant of Sun TV that the practice is synonymous with a “hunger strike” or a “diet” -- fasting includes the necessary spiritual component deeply woven into First Nation culture and spirituality)

Attawapiskat Chief, Theresa Spence, began her public fast on December 11, 2013, in support of the Idle No More movement. Her fast consisted of a liquid diet of sips of lemon water, medicinal teas, and fish broth.

Chief Spence ended her six-week fast on January 24, 2013; though there is still confusion as to what she achieved in regards to First Nations community’s relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Two other First Nations elders -- Raymond Robinson and Emil Bell -- also fasted in solidarity with Chief Spence and the Idle No More movement.

The Idle No More movement is still active and actions are being planned across the country for the global days of demonstration on March 20-22, 2013.

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