Citizen Action Monitor

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and accompanying protests grab headlines here and abroad

Will Harper blink?

No 641 Posted by fw, December 27, 2012

Here’s a sample of the opening salvos from four recent media reports that Chief Spence and the IdleNoMore movement are attracting. Click on the linked titles for the complete stories.

Canada’s First Nations protest heralds a new alliance Published by The Guardian, December 20, 2012.

Canada‘s placid winter surface has been broken by unprecedented protests by its aboriginal peoples. In just a few weeks, a small campaign launched against the Conservative government’s budget bill by four aboriginal women has expanded and transformed into a season of discontent: a cultural and political resurgence.

Chief Theresa Spence

Chief Theresa Spence

It has seen rallies in dozens of cities, a disruption of legislature, blockades of major highways, drumming flash mobs in malls, a flurry of Twitter activity under the hashtag #IdleNoMore and a hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, in a tepee minutes from Ottawa’s parliament. Into her tenth day, Spence says she is “willing to die for her people” to get the prime minister, chiefs and Queen to discuss respect for historical treaties.

The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has dismissed the escalating protest movement, saying “that’s social media, so we’ll just have to see where that goes.” He told international media that relations with First Nations are “very good”. If only that were the truth…[Click on title for more]


Idle No More: Indigenous-Led Protests Sweep Canada for Native Sovereignty and Environmental Justice Published by Democracy Now! December 26, 2012.

We turn now to a new campaign for indigenous rights and environmental justice that’s spreading across Canada. The “Idle No More” movement began as a series of protests against a controversial government budget bill but has since expanded into a nationwide movement for political transformation. Aboriginal and environmental activists are teaming up to resist what they say is the conservative Canadian government’s attempts to appropriate resource-rich lands and to assimilate aboriginal nations. They are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to honor treaties with aborigines, open dialog with environmentalists, and reject tar sands pipelines that would infiltrate First Nation territories.

The website calls on people to, quote, “join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty” and “protects the land and water.” Spreading their message on social media outlets, activists with Idle No More have rallied in dozens of Canadian cities, held countless teach-ins, blocked major highways, organized flash mobs in shopping centers, and even interrupted the legislature.

One of the movement’s most high-profile supporters is Chief Theresa Spence, who is on her 16th day of hunger strike in a tepee just outside Ottawa’s parliament. She warns she will starve herself until she gets a meeting with Prime Minister Harper to discuss respect for historical treaties…. We go to Toronto to speak with Pamela Palmater, chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University and spokeswoman for the Idle No More movement. “We, First Nations people, have been subsidizing the wealth and prosperity and programs and services of Canadians from our lands and resources,” Palmater says. “And that’s the reality here that most people don’t understand.” …[Click on title for more]


Support Pours In As ‘Idle No More’ Movement Steams Ahead Published by Common Dreams, December 27, 2012.

Rail blockades, street protests, flash mobs and an ongoing hunger strike give fuel to indigenous rights campaign in Canada. The indigenous rights movement Idle No More continued its national campaign on Wednesday, holding demonstrations at shopping malls across Canada, blocking streets in major cities, and maintaining a rail blockade with promises of more.

Leveraging the large public crowds on Boxing Day, First Nations protesters held rallies and flash mobs challenging the recent changes to the federal Indian Act—contained in an omnibus piece of legislation, Bill C-45—which the group says undermines previously agreed to treaties, threatens their communities, and harms the natural environment for all Canadians.

As part of the ongoing and growing movement, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike since December 11th, resolved to starve herself to death unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets to discuss treaty rights and Canada’s relationship with its indigenous peoples.

The movement has also spurred the blockade of a CN Rail line in Sarnia, Ontario. Flash mobs at busy shopping malls, which featured traditional round dances and drums, were reported across the country, including in Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and elsewhere with hundreds of individuals involved at each location. …[Click on title for more]


Justice at Stake: Chief Theresa Spence Inspires a Nation Published by rabble, December 27, 2012

Launched in the shadows of Parliament Hill two weeks ago, the hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence goes on. There is little to be heard from the federal government or Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but a cowardly silence.

Chief Spence said she is willing to die in an attempt to get the federal government and aboriginal leaders to discuss the treaty process and make fundamental changes.

Spence’s protest was ignited by the recent passage of the government’s second omnibus budget bill and has the support of “Idle No More.” Through flash mobs and round dances in shopping centres around the country, they have shown their ability to disrupt, to make noise, celebrate and engage thousands of people across the country.

According to French philosopher Alain Badiou, only from outside the traditional political frame, outside the logic of the state, can a true political sequence begin. Only through the opening of such an event can we begin to see a new possibility that was not there before. This rupture that has been opened up has the profoundest of implications precisely because of its affirmative demands. A true negation of the present political order needs to begin with an affirmative logic if it is to bypass the crisis of negativity that regularly befalls social movements. That is why the political sequence that has been initiated by Chief Spence and Idle No More is threatening to the Stephen Harper government and could fundamentally reshape the political landscape in a meaningful way.

By this point in the hunger strike, it becomes difficult to concentrate. Muscle mass is weakened and emaciation starts to set in. A critical accumulation of toxic components from the metabolism process build up and can lead to death from liver and kidney damage and brain toxins if the strike continues for a few more weeks. Unlike Occupy, Idle No More and Chief Spence have demands. She has become a national symbol and has bravely highlighted the gross public policy extremes of the Harper government and has deservedly shamed them nationally and internationally.…[Click on title for more]

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