Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Manitoba grand chief off to Ottawa to back hunger striker

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Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak is heading to Ottawa to support a week-long hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nation’s chief.

Chief Theresa Spence started her fast on Dec. 10 in an effort to force the Conservative government to show more respect to First Nations' concerns and engage in more meaningful discussions with First Nations people in Canada.

Attawapiskat was the centre of media attention last year over a winter housing crisis.

A spokesman for John Duncan, the federal aboriginal affairs minister, said Sunday that Duncan would like to meet with Spence to discuss the issues she has raised. His office has yet to make contact with the Attawapiskat chief, but is offering to meet on Jan. 3.

"Minister Duncan has expressed his concern for Chief Spence’s health and has indicated that while he has to return to his riding, he remains willing to meet with her to discuss the issues she has raised," Jan O’Driscoll, Duncan’s spokesman, said Sunday.

Nepinak called on First Nations people across Canada to support Spence and pressure the federal government to meet her demands.

"Fly, drive or otherwise and demand that the conditions of breaking the fast be met by this prime minister. If this prime minister fails to meet the conditions and this powerful Attawapiskat chief passes, the long silent war drums of our people must ring loudly in the ears of everyone," Nepinak said.

History

Updated on Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 4:20 PM CST: Edit, add photo.

4:40 PM: fix typo

4:45 PM: edit

8:16 PM: replaces earlier version

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