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Labour support grows for chief on hunger strike

Monday, December 17, 2012   by: Staff



Negotiate First Nations treaty rights, labour leaders urge, in support of Chief Theresa Spence

TORONTO/OTTAWA (December 17, 2012) - Two of the country's largest private sector unions are calling on the federal government to meet with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence immediately, leading into a formal treaty meeting with First Nations.

The Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union are expressing concern for Chief Spence's safety as she goes into her second week of a hunger strike, demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston.

The unions urge the federal government to use a collective bargaining approach with the First Nations people over treaty rights.

"For our entire existence as a country, the federal government has abused the rights of the First Nations people," said CAW National President Ken Lewenza. "This is no more apparent than in Chief Spence's community of Attawapiskat where a year later, the town is still without adequate housing and infrastructure as the winter sets back in."

Lewenza said that he and many others have been deeply moved by the courage and tenacity shown by Chief Spence, who is in the seventh day of the hunger strike.

The union leaders are adding their voices to the legions of supporters through the emerging Idle No More movement.

During the hunger strike, Chief Spence is living in a teepee on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River, near the Supreme Court of Canada and the House of Commons.

"Chief Theresa Spence's fight for her people is similar to that labour movement and so many other groups - the fight for dignity, respect, and equality," said CEP National President Dave Coles. "It is urgently necessary that the government reach an equitable agreement with the First Nations people. As a country, we know all too well the reality of centuries of colonization, inequality and abuse."

"On behalf of more than 300,000 working women and men across Canada, we are urging the federal government to live up to its responsibility to aboriginal people and meet with Chief Theresa Spence and other aboriginal leaders," said Coles.


Earlier coverage of this story:

OPSEU stands behind Chief Theresa Spence

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
B Boy 12/17/2012 4:31:23 PM Report

Maybe I've got my facts wrong but didn't the Attiwapiskat band in 2006 receive $90 million and they receive somewhere in the neighbourhood of $40 million per annum? Do I understand correctly that the band was being investigated or looked into for misappropriation of some of that funding?

If I've misunderstood please let me know so I can stop being frustrated by this.

molder2 12/17/2012 4:32:28 PM Report

Hey Dare!
foxyroxy 12/17/2012 4:40:34 PM Report

Way the go for Chief Theresa Spence. Stand the grown for the First Nations Peoples'. And, LOL, to that exactly, stick to your drinks. You say "taxpayer." Paying for what??? For your "NATIVE" children to get free education....Please think before you voice any opinions...and may it be positive opinions only...Soon enough all people that vote for there government leaders will soon understand, that the government will soon rattle your tail and you won't be taking it sitting, guaranteed!!!
shju 12/17/2012 4:48:17 PM Report

I think the government is doing a great job. They need to give tax breaks for companies to stay here and cut all programs that are non essential. There is too much fat and it needs to be trimmed. If we dont do something now there will be nothing left of this country in 20 years. I am glad everyone says teachers deserve it. Its for our youth. If the government gives into the teachers there will be nothing left to give our children in 20 years except this big fat debt we have accumulated because of greed that we want now. There has to be cuts or the country falls. There can not be hand outs forever. Money has to come from somewhere and the taxpayer is tired of working 50+ hours a week to pay for all this.
mel_g 12/17/2012 5:11:04 PM Report

I don't know why I read these comments. So many people are so misinformed about the relationship that Canada and First Nation people made years ago. It doesn't matter how long ago it was an agreement that very important people made. So much negativity when it comes to First Nations fighting for their rights. Think about if these agreements were not made many families who were immigrants would not have been allowed here. Please educate and keep ignorant and stop racist comments.
Tom_Bom 12/17/2012 5:16:49 PM Report

Come on Harper at least talk to the woman... She's been without food in a teepee for 7 days now. Even if nothing happens, we don't need another casualty.

We can argue about tax's and how native teens get their university paid for and this and that.... but in the mean time there's a woman with very strong beliefs who is starving herself to a point that's starting to become dangerous for her, for what she believes in.

Even if nothings accomplished, can't we at least give her the meeting?
ackw 12/17/2012 6:23:15 PM Report

Since when did these two unions care about anything besides collecting dues and spending the working man's money??? Something smells fishy here.
Entity 12/17/2012 7:02:26 PM Report

Attawapiskat gets about 15 million a year, and the people balancing the books kept no record of where it was getting spent. It was clearly not spent on necessities, hence their terrible housing and infrastructure situation. Attawapiskat is a tiny place, that kind money could give that entire town a makeover. It's no wonder the Chief(s) have objections to a 3rd party accountant looking at their books. Unfortunately they just cry racism instead of creating any sort of logical reason to be offended.

Some 90 million dollars over 6 years appears to have been squandered.

So I hope she goes hungry in her tee pee for awhile longer; I'm guessing her fridge is well stocked for when she gets home.

guestwho 12/17/2012 7:15:53 PM Report

I believe it was $93 million,worked out to be about $53,000/person,and she wanted to block audits and third party people trying to find where the money went,nothing wrong with going on a diet anyways
THE Warrior 12/17/2012 8:22:52 PM Report

I see the keyboard cowards are at it again. For the first comment made, so you got pregnant by a native person so you could get your kids an education. Good for you, you should never let your children know what you think of them. This hate that is being passed down generation to generation has to stop. Time to get off the meds and your couches and better your mind with love, that hate you spread will eat away at your kids souls. Teach them to hate and they will never have peace or harmony. I wish you all the best in the festive season. But i gotta say the keyboard cowards are great, hide behind those computer desks and spread the hate. And for people on here don't get insulted. These keyboard cowards are from abusive relationships and are only doing what they know best. They are hurting so they want others to hurt.. Take care of your mental health please..
Ricatoni 12/17/2012 8:22:56 PM Report

WOW!!!!!!!!! some pretty rediculous comments here .......There sure is a lot of hate in this world.......:(
cooper2006 12/17/2012 8:44:32 PM Report

Entity...stop watching Sun're are so misinformed that you have probably have convinced ourself you are correct.

What the hell do you think it costs to run Blind River for a year? Add it up, school, hospital, roads, social assistance, water & sewer, children aid, etc...same size community...if you are going to try and compare, at least do it intelligently and compare like balance sheets and various organizational audits vs simply the towns individual expenditures. In FNs all the funding goes to the band, unlike municipalities.

shju 12/17/2012 9:06:47 PM Report

I seen people once claim land was taken away from them. We gave it back to the germans and in return they wanted more and ww2 broke out! Guess war solves everything.
Sudsy 12/17/2012 10:09:19 PM Report

for the well-being of this country I think it`s in the best interest of harper to pull his pale ass out of his jacuzzi, throw on his ear muffs and leg warmers and get down to victoria island too hear this lady`s causes.
ThinkAgain 12/17/2012 10:32:01 PM Report

She can afford to lose a few more pounds.
Entity 12/18/2012 9:36:49 AM Report

Cooper: Did Attawapiskat receive ~90 million dollars over 6 years? Do they have something to show for it? Did the chief not cry racism when a 3rd party auditor was to be assigned to look at the financial management of that money? The truth shouldn't hurt, acknowledging it is the only way forward. Please acknowledge the truth. Please acknowledge that for 6 years, Attawapiskat was receiving 15 million dollars per year, and their residents were still living in tents and run-down trailers; while the Chiefs probably picked up a new F-150 each year.
Entity 12/18/2012 9:36:49 AM Report

Cooper: Did Attawapiskat receive ~90 million dollars over 6 years? Do they have something to show for it? Did the chief not cry racism when a 3rd party auditor was to be assigned to look at the financial management of that money? The truth shouldn't hurt, acknowledging it is the only way forward. Please acknowledge the truth. Please acknowledge that for 6 years, Attawapiskat was receiving 15 million dollars per year, and their residents were still living in tents and run-down trailers; while the Chiefs probably picked up a new F-150 each year.
Sgustaf 12/18/2012 10:36:48 AM Report

You know what frustrates me.....ignorant Canadians. At what point can I stop shaking my head at people like you. Firstly, I am First Nations, a taxpayer, and actually a union member for CEP. So let me spell it out for everyone. Settlers came to my land centuries ago....wanted to coexist, made aggreements with us (treaties) in return for the land, promised things like education, healthcare, shared resources and revenues that came from the land and annuity payment of approximately 4.00 per year and depending on which treaty...a new suit for the chief. A 4.00 annuity payment over 2 centuries's still 4.00....well at least the government kept that end of the bargain. Its not about "getting things for free" its about an band number is 20100**701 and according to the "indian act" I belong to the federal government..yes people, we belong to the government.
So...the government has earned billions and billions of dollars from the resources of the land...but yet my people live in third world living conditions. You really think this is by choice? think again. In regards to Chief Spence....I only know that its 13.00 for a pound of grapes and 20.00 for a bag of milk where she lives. How much do you think it would cost to send materials to build one house? She fought for the governments attention due to the housing crisis back in january. They did nothing, they crisis got International attention and the "red Cross" was called in. This was quite an embarassment for Canada. Pissed off....they accused the band of mismanaging funds...order a third party manager to take care of the finances.....this case actually went to federal court and the government LOST was stated that their actions were "unreasonable". For punishment...their education funding was pullled for three whole months...yes that right school for the children for 3 months....imagine that happening in the city here....hmmm. ....all I can says is that First Nations people are tired of fighting for their rights and getting no where.
lets see what you have to say now....bring on..the ignorant racist comments.
ryeandcoke 12/18/2012 11:04:05 AM Report

The things I could do with 90 Million. For starters make small INVESTMENTS that will earn your community money. KEEP TRACK OF WHERE YOU SPEND THIS MONEY. KNOW WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN'T. You can't just blow money and expect more. Look at Bay Mills for example. THEY ARE AN INDEPENDENTLY WEALTHY COMMUNITY. Kudo's to them for not depending on other people to better themselves. Every reserve should take a look at Bay Mills. I don't understand why batchawana wouldn't build a casino and get rich of the us. I understand the agreement part of everything, but shouldn't you have a Representative in the house of commons if your part of the government?
Sgustaf 12/18/2012 11:17:47 AM Report

Native Americans have casino and gaming rights. Thats why they are able to create ecomomic growth and financial stability. Native Canadians don't.
ryeandcoke 12/18/2012 11:35:05 AM Report

If it's your reserve you should have gaming within your reserve, no?
moem 12/18/2012 1:50:10 PM Report


Thanks, well said.... Isn't it exhausting sometimes having to say the same thing over and over, but perhaps you can educate people one at a time.... It should be comforting to know that big cities like TO are much more accepting and understanding they teach Ojibway in mainstream schools etc.... Slowly as more and more young people leave the Soo to experience cultural diversity and bring their values back here with them, things will get better... A lot of the narrow mindedness comes from older set in their ways people and it will die off with them!!!
ackw 12/18/2012 5:45:29 PM Report

You once actually had a job!! (rare).And what have you been doing for the last 15 years since you QUIT??
This is it 12/19/2012 10:20:34 AM Report

This story and generally the way society is going makes me sick. Everyone needs to wake up and realise the goverment is not going to take care of you. People you need to start taking your futur into you own hands. Bitching and whinning gets no where, take the effort you put into complaining about how rough you got it, sit for a minute and think about how much worst it could be. All people care about now is how much there getting, so much so that we can't even see what we have. Teachers, Natives, OSS, OPS, OPSUE, we all have it pretty good. Our contry is broke we need to work together and rebuild our crumbling economie, fighting each other for the last scrapes is just plain stupid.
moem 12/19/2012 11:34:36 AM Report

That's right this is it...

They could be living with no running water, in tents and no electricity... Oh wait... They are!! Or they could have no easy affordable access to food... Oops they don't have that either!!!

westofthesoo 12/19/2012 12:28:21 PM Report

can you imagine if every first nation blocked roads and railways across canada at the same time!! how much food would be moving! would the federal goverment stop and listen then! I'm a Batchawana first nation member and have been working since I was 14 years old!! starting paying taxes at 16, and have been ever since. My income is $75.000.00 annully,never collected social assitance in my life. My education, alot of hard work, just like the immigrants that moved to the Sault to live a good life.I work for the Provicial goverment. I took advantage of the treaties my ancestors signed with goverment years ago and got one hell of an education... I'm proud of who I am! Proud to be from the Soo!!! Lets work together people quit our name calling and blaming!!!
Sgustaf 12/19/2012 4:23:14 PM Report

ackw 12/18/2012 5:45:29 PM Report

You once actually had a job!! (rare).And what have you been doing for the last 15 years since you QUIT??

Thanks "ackw" for your intelligent response?? when I say "I am a taxpayer" means present tense....if "I were a taxpayer" then question whether or not I am employed.
moem 12/19/2012 4:51:53 PM Report


I read and reread trying to figure out where ackw Got the idea you didn't work I was puzzled too, but I have to say that comment ackw should have been removed because it implies that first nations people working is rare, and that's racism!!

I think racism ( to first nations) has become so widely accepted that people don't even recognize it when they see it

IB-fine 12/19/2012 5:01:41 PM Report

Some of these comments are unbelievable! Never read such crap and racist mess in here ever!

If the Red Cross and other International rescue groups recognized this band is in trouble, and living in substandard dwellings, no running water, food at outrageous prices, then I think it is.

Some of the money the band received was taken for paying someone from the Ministry of Indian Affairs to oversee the negotiations with a local gold company for payments to the band.....well he messed that up as the band got and still receives very little.

They built a school, on land picked by their Indian Affairs agent, which turned out to be on top of a toxic dump. So the kids can't even use the brand new school sitting there.

Even though money has been received unless building materials come over an ice road or are flown in, they don't come in. Which is also why food is so expensive.

Couldn't extend the railway to them as they (province) has stopped Ontario Northland anyway.

So bottom line is, how do we fix this problem?

I hope the PM will meet with the Chief and look at the bottom line and let's fix this mess and not make things worse with stupid comments!
Sgustaf 12/19/2012 7:30:35 PM Report

Canada gets human rights failing grade from Amnesty International

An Amnesty report released Wednesday says that committees on racial discrimination, prevention of torture and children’s rights found “a range” of “ongoing and serious human rights challenges,” especially for indigenous peoples.

“By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis,” it said.

In response to Amnesty’s report, Rick Roth, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said, “we are proud of the work we’ve done to advance freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law at home and around the world.”

The Amnesty report was one of three reports this week that pointed a warning finger at the treatment of aboriginal people.

The B.C. government’s final report from its Missing Women’s inquiry charged that there was a disproportionate number of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls on Vancouver’s downtown East Side from 1997-2002, and that their cases did not receive equal treatment by police.

....This report was just released yesterday....The rest of the world is aware of it....the biggest question is why do Canadians choose to ignore whats going on in their own backyard. ingrained colonialism!

moem 12/19/2012 8:33:49 PM Report


Exactly, who knows how many of those women would be alive today if the police had taken seriously the plight of those families that reported or in some cases tried to report their loved ones missing.... Canada got a pretty good rating for the quality of living index yet when they broke it down and rated the health and well being of children especially among aboriginals we ranked somewhere near 80!! Deplorable we are not doing enough....

And to the people who say " run for PM etc" that's just a ridiculous statement since it costs a great deal of money and the average person can't do it, but we can stand up for our rights and hey if you don't like our rights to peaceful protest etc why don't you run for PM then....
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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