Ottawa Citizen

Se­na­tor ques­tions chief’s strat­egy

Brazeau urges Spence to re­con­sider de­mand to meet the prime min­is­ter

- TERESA SMITH te­smith@ot­tawac­i­t­i­ twit­­no Canada News · Politics · Iceland · Stephen Harper · New Democratic Party (Canada) · Justin Trudeau · Thomas J. Mulcair · Twitter · Heidi Montag · Assembly of First Nations · Patrick Brazeau · David A. Johnston · John Duncan · Adam Beach · Marc Garneau · Facebook

As At­tawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence con­tin­ues her hunger strike, at least one Con­ser­va­tive voice said she should “think twice” about what she’s do­ing.

Se­na­tor Pa­trick Brazeau, who tried un­suc­cess­fully to meet with Spence at her teepee on Vic­to­ria Is­land on Christ­mas Eve, says Spence should be go­ing through the “proper par­lia­men­tary pro­cesses” rather than de­mand­ing to sit down with Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper.

“The sad re­al­ity is that there are a lot of peo­ple who would like to meet with the prime min­is­ter but … there is a chain of com­mand within our par­lia­men­tary process,” said Brazeau on Wed­nes­day. “The min­is­ter in­volved in this par­tic­u­lar is­sue has ex­tended his in­vi­ta­tion and has opened his door to meet­ing with Chief Spence, and I think that she should think twice and per­haps think hard about the op­por­tu­nity that is be­ing pre­sented to her.”

Spence has said she won’t eat un­til Harper and Gov. Gen. David John­ston agree to a meet­ing with First Na­tions lead­ers to dis­cuss the treaty re­la­tion­ship.

Spence, who con­sid­ers her­self the leader of a sov­er­eign na­tion, says she de­serves a meet­ing with the leader of Canada.

Abo­rig­i­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter John Dun­can, who has re­peat­edly tried to get in touch with Spence, wrote her again on Wed­nes­day.

“Given your will­ing­ness to ac­cept meet­ings now I am hop­ing that you will re­con­sider my of­fer, as a Min­is­ter of the Crown, to meet or speak with you by phone to dis­cuss the is­sues you have raised pub­licly,” he wrote.

Brazeau noted that “it seems that she doesn’t want to meet with government of­fi­cials or government rep­re­sen­ta­tives, but cer­tainly she’s open to meet­ing with NDP mem­bers and Lib­eral Party mem­bers.”

On Box­ing Day, Spence met with Lib­eral lead­er­ship can­di­date Justin Trudeau, who tweeted a few pho­tos of the 45-minute en­counter.

Cana­dian Saulteaux ac­tor Adam Beach also spent time with Spence this week.

NDP leader Thomas Mul­cair and an­other Lib­eral lead­er­ship hope­ful, Marc Garneau, have both writ­ten to the prime min­is­ter urg­ing him to meet with Spence.

Brazeau, who is Al­go­nquin, said he doesn’t think the chief is set­ting a good ex­am­ple for abo­rig­i­nal youth, “es­pe­cially in Canada, liv­ing in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety where there’s a lot of pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures in place for all Cana­di­ans — of all creed, re­li­gion, race and colour — to have their voices heard.”

How­ever, many are hold­ing Spence up as a hero, and us­ing the #idlenomore hash­tag on Twit­ter to tweet @ ChiefThere­sa with words of en­cour­age­ment.

In­deed, one new song about Idle No More puts Spence and her strike front and cen­tre in the cam­paign, which has been largely or­ga­nized by “grass­roots” First Na­tions, Inuit and Métis peo­ple, and spread through Twit­ter and Face­book.

One of Spence’s cen­tral con­cerns is what she sees as the government’s fail­ure to con­sult First Na­tions on leg­is­la­tion that af­fects them.

“The word ‘con­sul­ta­tion’ is such a broad word,” said Brazeau. “Peo­ple will have their dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions and in­ter­pre­ta­tions of what ex­actly that means.”

Dun­can’s of­fice said Wed­nes­day that con­sul­ta­tion is cen­tral to their leg­isla­tive plan.

The min­is­ter sent let­ters to both the As­sem­bly of First Na­tions and in­di­vid­ual chiefs ex­plain­ing that “First Na­tions can make rec­om­men­da­tions on the de­part­ment web­site as to what they’d like to see in terms of a First Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tion Act,” said spokesman Jan O’Driscoll.

“We will be do­ing re­gional con­sul­ta­tions in the new year, and have com­mit­ted to shar­ing the draft leg­is­la­tion with First Na­tions,” said O’Driscoll in an emailed state­ment.

O’Driscoll said there is a “mis­con­cep­tion” that changes to on-re­serve “land des­ig­na­tion” con­tained in the Con­ser­va­tive om­nibus bud­get bill will al­low First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties to “sell off ” their land.

“This is false,” he said. “Th­ese amend­ments are only about leas­ing and have noth­ing to do with sur­ren­der­ing re­serve lands.”

He said, on the con­trary, the changes al­low First Na­tions “to eco­nom­i­cally ben­e­fit from their lands and to man­age them ac­cord­ing to their by­laws.”

Brazeau added that leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing chiefs to dis­close their salaries and ex­penses pub­licly is ac­tu­ally the re­sult of work by “grass­roots” mem­bers of First Na­tions.

“Cer­tainly not ev­ery­thing is per­fect,” said Brazeau, “but it’s not as if the government has been work­ing alone in this and try­ing to im­pose any leg­is­la­tion down the throats of any­one con­cerned here.”

He placed some blame on “some First Na­tions lead­ers” who com­plain but don’t bring so­lu­tions.

“There are some First Na­tions lead­ers and peo­ple who, re­gard­less of what any government tries to pass in terms of leg­is­la­tion, they’re al­ways go­ing to be against it.”

But, for Spence, that type of con­sul­ta­tion is not enough.

She wants a face-to-face meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter to dis­cuss the treaty re­la­tion­ship be­cause she says the government is act­ing like it’s in charge but, ac­cord­ing to Spence, it should be an equal re­la­tion­ship.

“I pray for the prime min­is­ter to open his heart, and come to the ta­ble, and for us all to start a new re­la­tion­ship,” said Spence on Christ­mas Day.

Un­til that hap­pens, she says she will con­tinue to refuse solid food, tak­ing only some fish broth, lemon water and medic­i­nal teas.

 ?? TERESA SMITH/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN ?? Chief Theresa Spence of At­tawapiskat First Na­tion, seen on Vic­to­ria Is­land near Par­lia­ment Hill on Christ­mas Day, is be­ing crit­i­cized for her in­sis­tence on meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter, and not other min­is­ters, to end her hunger strike.
TERESA SMITH/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN Chief Theresa Spence of At­tawapiskat First Na­tion, seen on Vic­to­ria Is­land near Par­lia­ment Hill on Christ­mas Day, is be­ing crit­i­cized for her in­sis­tence on meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter, and not other min­is­ters, to end her hunger strike.

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