OTTAWA — Theresa Spence, the First Nation chief whose month-long hunger protest has helped fan the flames of the Idle No More protest movement, emerged from her island encampment Friday to meet Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
Spence, chief of the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, has been on a liquids-only diet for the past month, camped out on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River, in hopes of securing a meeting with Johnston and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Spence joined a group of her fellow chiefs at a downtown Ottawa hotel before heading to Rideau Hall for an evening meeting described by officials as "ceremonial." Looking frail and tired, she walked gingerly with the help of several handlers.
At one point, she stood briefly in a room full of chiefs while wearing a headdress and was feted by a group of aboriginal drummers.
Her health is seriously diminished, said her spokesman, Danny Metatawabin, who admitted surprise at her appearance at the hotel.
"She’s tired, she’s weak. She’s weakening. Got cramps in her stomach. We’re all praying for her," Metatawabin said. "The body’s stressed right now because of all the commotion of today."
But he said she will continue her hunger protest.
Spence later boarded one of two buses waiting to ferry the group to Rideau Hall.
Johnston offered Spence a "special welcome" and said he wanted "to say how concerned I am about your health and that of Raymond Robinson and Jean Sock." Robinson and Sock are two aboriginals who are also staging hunger protests.
"My deepest wish is for the well-being of all Canadians and for dialogue to always take place in a safe and healthy manner," Johnston said in prepared remarks released Friday night. The meeting wrapped up shortly after 8 p.m. CT, a spokesman said.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and several of Spence’s fellow chiefs were among those publicly urging Spence to end her protest, saying her health is in danger and she accomplished what she set out to do.
"I had a personal friend who went on a hunger strike years ago, and it did great detriment to his health," Duncan said.
— The Canadian Press