Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Elder begins hunger strike

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AN aboriginal leader from Manitoba says he has begun a hunger strike to try to stop changes to federal funding for First Nations people.

Grand Elder Raymond Robinson, an activist from Cross Lake First Nation, said the action will continue until Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to have a meaningful dialogue with aboriginal leaders.

Robinson was in Montreal Wednesday to address students at Concordia University. He wants Harper to cancel a series of recent amendments to the First Nations Comprehensive Funding Agreements.

Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Native Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, said the minister is prepared to meet with Robinson or any First Nations community member who wants to make progress for aboriginal people.

He said the government also wants to see more prosperous and self-sufficient First Nations communities.

MacDonald said from Ottawa the government is encouraging Robinson to continue to consume food and water.

First Nations leaders have been angry about strings they say the federal government has attached to their funding, including a clause that requires them to abide by existing and future legislation. They have argued this limits their right to mount challenges in the courts.

The 2013-2014 agreement sets out conditions for funding such as reporting and transparency requirements.

Robinson said he has the support of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat reserve, who recently ended her own hunger protest.

Robinson joined her in her liquid-diet-only protest last year to promote aboriginal demands.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2013 A8

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