Stephen Harper should meet Attawapiskat chief on hunger strike – Toronto Star

by aanationtalk on December 17, 2012473 Views

December 16, 2012

It’s a short limo drive, maybe five minutes, from Parliament Hill to Victoria Island in the middle of the Ottawa River. Heck, you could walk it in 10. So would it kill Stephen Harper to get out of his office and go meet the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation who is staging a hunger strike on the island to get attention for her community’s plight?

Remember Attawapiskat? It was all over the front pages a year ago when the Red Cross flew into the northern Ontario reserve to rescue people living in flimsy tents and shacks without running water as the coldest part of the year approached. The nation was shocked; politicians wrung their hands; ministers promised action.

Twelve months later, Chief Theresa Spence is in a cabin on Victoria Island, saying she won’t eat until Harper meets with her. She says the pain of watching her people suffer from lack of housing and inadequate water supplies is unbearable. “I am willing to die for my people,” she says, “because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government to realize what it’s doing to us.”

It’s easy, too easy in fact, to dismiss what Spence is doing as a stunt. And it’s easy to say that Harper shouldn’t bow to such obvious public pressure. If he meets with her, won’t he have to meet with every other desperate native leader willing to put her health or even her life on the line to draw attention to conditions back home?

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