Harper Must Idle No More

On this day of power, when the earth shifts from fall into winter, Prime Minister Harper must Idle No More and meet with Chief Theresa Spence of Attapaskiwat on this the 11th day of her hunger strike. Stephen Harper-it is time to bring an end to the hunger strike!

No longer can Harper say that he has “done enough” by meeting with Chiefs at the Crown First Nations Gathering and that he had a private meeting with National Chief Shawn Atleo on November 29th and therefore he does not have to meet with Chief Spence. In other words, he has done his duty as he sees it. I think not!

No longer can Harper ignore the increasing amount of support from within indigenous communities in North America and the support pouring in from the NDP leader Thomas Muclair and the Canadian Labour Congress. There are protests in Cairo, London, Los Angeles and indigenous peoples from the US were trying to get into Canada to support activities going on here but were not allowed across the border. This has become an international issue and how will Harper Canada look if Chief Spence dies?

Protests in many cities, blocking roads and railways, flash mob round dances in malls, people are finding ways to raise their voices in support of Chief Theresa Spence and to decry the treatment of indigenous peoples by the Harper government. Enough is enough Harper, such action calls for a joint agenda and action plan by the Federal Government and First Nations. No empty promises like those he made at the Crown First Nations Gathering last January. We need a complete overhaul of how to do business. We don’t need “Big Brother” deciding what is best for us.

Such a wave of strength of indigenous peoples from the grass roots, children, youth, elders, men, women, all ages are moving to the forefront to be heard. This is not just about our Chiefs and leaders, this is about the people, where the power really lies. As approximately 70 buses of First Nations people drive toward Ottawa for the protest there, as events happen from coast to coast to coast, Canada has to wake up to the fact that this is not an isolated event, this is a movement, a resurgence, and a reawakening.

Why must Harper Idle No More and meet with Chief Spence? The very basis of any kind of a working relationship with indigenous peoples is at stake. If Harper has any hope of a positive working relationship with the First Nations, he must meet with Chief Spence. If Harper wants any credibility with indigenous people he must take the meeting with Chief Spence. Activities and the number of people involved will only increase exponentially as the life of Chief Spence hangs in the balance.

If Chief Spence dies, the blame will be on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnson in their continued refusal to meet with her. They will of course deny this, but in most people’s minds, they will be the cause of her death. If she dies, the reaction will be great. In what form that will take I don’t know but it has the potential to be a tremendous backlash. Chief Spence has asked for peace and for unity amongst indigenous peoples, but even she has said, “If I die, we want peace…but we can’t control what might happen”. Organizers of Idle No More are asking for peaceful conduct but will this last if the Chief passes on to walk with the ancestors?

If Chief Spence dies she will become a formidable symbol to the indigenous movement. I have been thinking whether Chief Spence would be considered a martyr, a person willing to suffer for a cause, an Idealist. I don't like that word as it relates to the Chief, but I think what Chief Spence is and will continue to be is an inspiration: someone who has brought out the best in all of us and caused people to act; she is a role model-someone willing to stand for a cause; a real leader-who is so committed to changing the social conditions her people live in that she will give her life. Chief Spence has made her way into the hearts of all indigenous peoples and many non indigenous people as well.

Indigenous peoples are very concerned about the health of Chief Spence. She is getting weaker in body but strong in mind and spirit. She will die for what she believes in and what she knows must be done. Her leadership has ignited a flame in all indigenous people and one that is burning bright and the question is will that flame burn out of control if she dies?

Chief Spence has asked for a meeting with Harper and the Governor General. Both are refusing to meet with her. For the Governor General, his role is the Head of State, the representative of the queen and his role is mostly symbolic and ceremonial. It would be an easy thing to him but judging from his interview, he takes his lead from the cabinet and he has no desire to cross them.

Minister John Duncan has been offering to meet with Chief Spence on January 3rd, 2012. By then, if she lives that long, it will be day 24 of her fast, clearly, the urgency of her situation is not being understood by Duncan. Chief Spence doesn’t want to meet with Duncan and for good reason. Last year during the crisis in Attapaskiwat, the federal government provided band aid solutions, 22 homes. The community is still in poverty and suffering and Chief Spence has seen no real change under Duncan’s authority. She needs to meet with the Prime Minister to get real change.

Harper this week was called a “Large Lump” by President Barack Obama. An apt description! He needs to gain credibility in the international community, he needs to up his stature as a leader, and he could do so by meeting with Chief Spence. I often wondered if Harper had a heart and when he showed emotion during the residential school apology, I thought, well, maybe he does have one. If he does have a heart, he has buried it again and I hope that he will find it once more.

As the sun starts to come through and darkness leaves the west coast of BC for another day, I pray with all my strength for Chief Spence, for her life, for her voice to be heard.

I pray for Stephen Harper’s to feel with his heart and change his mind and meet with Chief Spence. Not only meet with her, but commit and act upon changing the way his government does business with First Nations in this country. I pray that he will see the wisdom of the benefits of working with indigenous peoples and provide the leadership this country needs in indigenous peoples issues.

I pray for the Governor General David Johnston to use his role to meet with Chief Spence, make the grand gesture even if it is ceremonial. This does not have to be political, this can be part of the relationship building that is part of his role and so needed.

I pray for the safety of indigenous peoples across Mother Earth and their continued assertion of our rights and their commitment to continually be involved in all that affects us. I pray that this strength being undertaken be used for positive change. I pray that each indigenous person commits to be Idle No More and work towards changes they see needed in their own way, in their own time.

I pray for the people in Canada and indeed the world that they come forward in great numbers and support Chief Spence to get her meeting with Harper and Johnston. But much more than that, I pray that people from all walks of life push for the vital and drastic changes needed to be undertaken by the Harper government.

We are indeed on a day of change, not only of seasons, but the role of indigenous peoples in this country. What kind of change depends on whether Harper will Idle No More and meet with Chief Spence. A lot rides on that today as indigenous peoples demonstrate from coast to coast to coast. Power to the People!


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