Chief Theresa Spence hasn't eaten in over 11 days. The weather has taken a big turn for the worse and her tent home on Victoria Island is far from ideal. This was a serious business and she told me she wasn't backing down. I knew then I was watching the beginning of a revolution. Chief Spence has put her life on the line. This is not a game. This is not a stunt. Every day that Mr. Harper tries to wait out the crisis, the stakes rise higher. Mr. Harper has a very short window to show leadership. He needs to come the table and begin to address the issues that have driven so many First Nation communities into poverty and despair.
The story behind the headline is that Chief Spence's hunger strike is not simply about the appalling conditions her people continue to face. Spence is one of many aboriginal leaders looking for a way to express her frustration with the Government of Canada passing laws that affect their lives and land, as well as violating treaty rights without involving them in any of the decision making.
"I'm willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it's time for the government to realize what (it's) doing to us." We should all be ashamed that these words were uttered in Canada, and that a First Nation leader has put her life on the line to be heard. A hunger strike in Canada is a sign of imperfect democracy.
Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat started a hunger strike this week -- "I am willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it's time for the government to realize what it's doing to us." The frustration of Aboriginal Peoples is understandable given the complete lack of progress on their issues and the refusal of the government to fulfill its legal obligation to consult with them on matters that may impact their inherent and/or treaty rights. The outrage of First Nations, Inuit and Métis is not only understandable, but justified.
Waiting, waiting and waiting for promises of a better life built the Native Tobacco industry. The taste of success and finical independence lead to the growth of this business. Many don't want this way of life but circumstances have led many to this profession.
Last night I stood in the kind of hip club space I haven't visited since my 20s, jammed with nominees for the annual Canadian Online Publishing Awards. That spirit of course imbues our own upstart site here at HuffPost Canada, which was nominated for no fewer than eight awards. You can imagine how proud I was, as the former Managing Editor of Blogs here, to see our talented writers walk away with both the Gold and Silver awards for Best Blog in the daily and weekly newspapers, and broadcasters category.
This week will mark the first anniversary since Attawawpiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency over the abysmal housing situation on the James Bay coast. Footage of the living conditions in this isolated community shocked Canadians and resulted in a media firestorm. The crisis became a cultural Pandora's box that unleashed numerous issues and misconceptions regarding our relationship with Canada's First Peoples. Now on the eve of this dark anniversary, Canada's "Katrina" moment has made it to the big screen. And who better equipped to tell the real story of the 2011-housing crisis than iconic filmmaker Alanis Obamsawin?
We are disturbed that in the days following a Federal Court decision you refused to provide a ministerial guarantee to support a plan to build 30 new duplexes in Attawapiskat through rents established at market rates. Thirty new units would have gone a long way towards alleviating the serious levels of overcrowding in the community. As the band had already been approved by CMHC, your role was simply to sign a ministerial guarantee. This was not a hand-out but a forward-looking plan that to provide safe housing for families who are living in very precarious conditions.
On August 1, the Federal Court released its judicial review of the appointment of a Third Party Manager in Attawapiskat. Over and over again, the Federal Court states that financial mismanagement was not the issue, and never had been. The fact that the public dialogue about Attawapiskat was almost wholly concerned with allegations of such mismanagement, demonstrates just how intensely events can become hijacked by misunderstandings.
Federal court ruled Wednesday morning the that the Conservative government's response to the crisis in Attawapiskat was unreasonable and failed to look at any remedy other than the appointment of a Third Party Manager. Rather that own up to their mistake the Conservative government says it is "disappointed" with the decision. What will it take for this government to take responsibility for its own incompetence? The Conservative government must work with First Nations to find solutions rather than simply trying to deflect blame for their own failures.
For everything that the Conservatives have done to this country -- from lying about the costs of the F-35 program, to Bev Oda inserting the "not" that defunded KAIROS -- it's quite hypocritical of Harper's government to ask the First Nations for fiscal transparency on National Aboriginal Day.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food recently toured Canada and reported, "very desperate conditions, and people who are in extremely dire straits" in terms of hunger. The Conservative response was to deny the problem and to attack the credibility of the Rapporteur. The government is turning its back on almost three million Canadians who are struggling to meet their nutrition needs.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is busy patting itself on the back for solving all of Attawapiskat's problems. To hear them tell it, Jacques Marion, who was just let go as the First Nation's third-party manager, was a veritable hero, swooping into Attawapiskat in the nick of time, narrowly averting disaster.
With respect to those who suggest we henceforth do without the British Monarchy, there wouldn't be a Canada without the British Monarchy. This trumps everything as regards this debate. We have real problems in Canada at the moment -- and the British Monarchy isn't one of them.
One of the last times I saw her was when she and Serena spoke at the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention in Toronto. She blew the room away. Tough-assed union leaders cried when they heard her speak. There was something so vulnerable but so fierce about Shannen. She had moxy.
Housing is increasingly unaffordable for many. Federal support for housing has plummeted and could decrease further in an era of so-called fiscal restraint. The numbers point to more and more households unable to meet, or at risk of not meeting, basic needs including housing. Something's gotta give.