OTTAWA — Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence took part in a ceremony this morning on Victoria Island to mark the beginning of an indefinite hunger strike demanding justice and respect for her people and for all First Nations in Canada.
Yesterday, at a press conference on Parliament Hill, Chief Spence told reporters: “I am 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.”
The Attawapiskat Chief was greeted on Parliament Hill by supporters and well wishers, including Charlie Angus, the NDP Member of Parliament for the northern Ontario riding that includes Attawapiskat.
The hunger strike action coincides with a renewed movement for Indigenous rights across the country, sparked by opposition to provisions in the Conservative government’s omnibus Bill C-45 which was passed last week.
Attawapiskat, last year, became a symbol of the poverty endured by many First Nations communities across Canada when shockingly poor housing conditions were revealed.
At the time, the federal government blamed the dire housing situation on “financial mismanagement” by the Attawapiskat leadership and placed the band under “third party management”. The Federal Court later ruled that this response by the Harper government was “unreasonable.”
Despite calls by MP Angus, community leaders and many others, Prime Minister Stephen Harper never visited Attawapiskat in the wake of the 2011 housing crisis.
Chief Spence plans to conduct her hunger strike in a cabin on Victoria Island, in addition to visiting Parliament Hill daily if possible.
She says she will consume only water, and is not afraid to die if it comes to that. “If that’s the journey for me to go, I’ll go.”
Photo: Office of Charlie Angus, MP