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Sinclair to Spence: end hunger strike

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OTTAWA – The head of the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission today asked Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to end her hunger strike.

In a post on Facebook, Justice Murray Sinclair, made the request of Spence and others, including Manitoba Cross Lake elder Raymond Robinson, who have been going without solid food for more than a month in a protest against the federal government.

"When Idle No More started, several people observed that social media was an important tool in its successful series of protests and awareness raising. I have however also observed that it has been successful in allowing a new, bright and younger leadership to find their feet and inspire our belief in what lies in our future," Sinclair wrote.

"There are far too many names to list, but I have observed and take pride in their strength, professionalism, dignity and persistence in the face of tremendously negative backlash and outright racism. You all do us proud, regardless of whatever the immediate outcomes are. Your work is a great achievement. You are game changers. Our future, not only as Aboriginal people but as Canadians, looks brighter with such advocates.

"I would, for that reason, also ask that those who can, ask Chief Theresa Spence and the other hunger strikers to bring their hunger strikes to a halt. Their stance has achieved far more than they may have dreamed or sought. Any damage to them or their loss would hurt us in ways we cannot calculate."

Sinclair seems to be the first aboriginal leader to publicly ask Spence to start eating solid food again.

Spence held a brief news conference this morning in which she accused the federal government of repeatedly violating treaties. Her spokesman later said Spence would continue to go without solid food for the time being.

More than 4,000 protesters have now descended on Parliament Hill in a massive Idle No More march. Many are assembled outside the entrance to Langevin Block, the office building where Prime Minister Stephen Harper has an office and where today’s meeting with chiefs is supposed to take place. Some are demanded Harper come outside to meet with them.

It appears Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and regional AFN chiefs from British Columbia, Quebec and the Maritimes still plan to attend the meeting. Manitoba chiefs and those from Ontario, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories have all chosen not to attend. They would prefer a meeting with Harper and the Governor General, and that it be held at a hotel where more chiefs can attend.

Spence’s hunger strike and the Idle No More movement demand action from Ottawa to honour treaties. Among their demands are that the government repeal recent legislation that affects the Indian Act and environmental regulations, call an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, and set up a process to begin developing a resource revenue sharing agreement between the Crown and First Nations.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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