Last year we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a historic meeting between a Canadian Aboriginal leader and a Maasai tribal chief. A lifelong Aboriginal activist, A-in-chut Atleo is the hereditary chief of the Ahousaht First Nation in British Columbia, and is serving his second term as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
With a final media show, Chief Spence has now ended her 44 day "reduced food" diet. The question should now turn to what did she accomplish? Are Canadians more aware today and do they have a better understanding of the abysmal living conditions in First Nations communities? Probably not, such conditions were already well known and have been for decades.
Today's "National Day of Action" gives Chief Theresa Spence another opportunity to declare a victory over holding the government to account and another opportunity to call off her "hunger" strike. By not doing so she risks further polarizing and dividing the movement and First Nations leadership. The government is left with few options. It must still negotiate with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and National Chief Shawn Atleo, as it has to be seen to be engaged and working to make change possible, sooner rather than later.
The Deloitte & Touche audit of Attawapiskat is a textbook outcome of the fatal weakness in Canada's current model of First Nations governance, which is coded to fail. There could be hundreds of Attawapiskats.
Does anyone know what the average First Nations chief's level of training and management experience is? Or the average training and experience of band councillors? How many building inspectors live within 50 miles of Attawapiskat? How about CAs, CGAs or project managers capable of supervising and maintaining records on multiple construction sites?
As we enter the new year, it is time for Chief Spence and Prime Minister Harper to pause and reflect about their on-going standoff. Both sides need to feel that they have won and both sides need to find a way to declare victory. Only then can the two sides proceed to the next step which should be fresh dialogue and agreed to solutions for key First Nations issues.
Waiting for the Canadian state to do something about violence is literally killing us, so I am not interested in participating in any delaying tactics or knowledge gathering for a state that clearly isn't listening. I want meaningful change and I want it now, and I don't think that's too much to ask for. Because my life and the lives of all women and girls are worth more than this.
The recent decision by the Assembly of First Nations to reject Ottawa's musings about reforming on-reserve education was an example of a react-first, ask-questions later approach. It was unhelpful, most of all to First Nations kids. Whenever the possibility of mixing more First Nations kids with non-native kids is brought up, some immediately have concerns over possible forced assimilation given past attempts to such an end. But integration (attending class with non-natives) is not assimilation. One can be Jewish in a public school without losing one's heritage and faith.