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Queen declines to intervene in Chief Spence’s protest – Politics – CBC News

Queen declines to intervene in Chief Spence’s protest

Buckingham Palace says chief should appeal to federal cabinet

The Canadian Press

Posted: Jan 17, 2013 5:15 PM ET

Last Updated: Jan 17, 2013 9:42 PM ET

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 6. Spence is now six weeks into her liquids-only protest.Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 6. Spence is now six weeks into her liquids-only protest. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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The Queen has rejected an appeal to intervene in Chief Theresa Spence’s liquids-only protest, but says she is taking “careful note” of concerns for the chief’s health.

In a letter dated Jan. 7, obtained by The Canadian Press, Buckingham Palace tells a supporter of Spence that the chief should deal instead with the federal cabinet.

“This is not a matter in which The Queen would intervene,” says the letter.

“As a constitutional Sovereign, Her Majesty acts through her personal representative, the Governor General, on the advice of her Canadian Ministers and, therefore, it is to them that your appeal should be directed.”

The letter also says the Queen understands the concerns about the welfare of Spence, who is now well into her sixth week of protest, surviving on fish broth and tea.

“Her Majesty has taken careful note of the concern you express for the welfare of Attawapiskat First Nations Chief Theresa Spence who is currently on a politically motivated hunger strike in Canada.”

Spence supporter wrote appeal to Queen

The response is addressed to Jonathan Francoeur, a small businessman in British Columbia who took it upon himself to write to the Queen on Dec. 15. It is signed by Miss Jennie Vine, deputy to the senior correspondence officer.

A spokesman for Spence said he believed the letter to be a fake, but he also said he did not know Francoeur. He did not respond to questions about why he believed the letter was not genuine.

Francoeur said he wrote the letter on his own initiative and not in an official capacity. There is a long Facebook trail starting Dec. 15 describing the process he went through to write the letter, decide the content and post it. Francoeur received the response earlier this week and said there was absolutely no reason to believe the response was a fake.

Joanne Charette, spokeswoman for Rideau Hall, also said the letter looked genuine.

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said they would not comment on personal correspondence.

“I was reading a (Facebook) post and it was explaining the cause,” Francoeur said in a telephone interview, when asked why he wrote to Buckingham Palace.

“It said to support the cause, it would be good for somebody to write the Queen and the prime minister.”

Francoeur said he was at home nursing a broken toe and had time on his hands to compose the letters. He has not yet heard back from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, so now he has written to the Queen a second time.

“I can’t communicate with the prime minister,” he said. “I wanted her to know.”

Spence is camped out on Victoria Island, within sight of the Parliament Buildings, where she says she will continue to protest until the Governor General and the prime minister meet all chiefs on the plight of First Nations people.

She announced last week she would boycott a meeting between the Assembly of First Nations and Harper because the Governor General would not be attending.

“We have sent a letter to Buckingham Palace, requesting that Queen Elizabeth II send forth her representative, which is the Governor General of Canada,” Spence said in a statement on Jan. 9.

By that day, the response from the palace to Francoeur was already in the mail. The Queen’s response was circulated among chiefs and Spence supporters this week.

Letter signals Harper’s responsibility

While the letter may remove the palace from any official role in the controversy, it does send a signal to the prime minister that he bears great responsibility for the lengthy protest by Spence, said Isadore Day, chief of the Serpent River reserve near Elliot Lake, Ont.

“The prime minister needs to have a little bit of moral reflection,” Day said.

‘We think she’s done her part, done her job. We don’t want anyone to die.’Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee

The fact the Queen wrote back at all is telling, he said.

“What I hear in that letter is a recognition and a concern for her health. That message should get through to the prime minister.”

A growing list of political leaders and chiefs has begged Spence to give up her protest in order to maintain her health and lead her people. On Thursday, chiefs from Ontario who have been among her most ardent supporters echoed that message.

“We think she’s done her part, done her job. We don’t want anyone to die,” said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Union of Ontario Indians.

Spence did not speak to reporters Thursday, nor did her spokespeople return messages. But Michele Audette, the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada who has grown close to Spence, says the chief was feeling “lively” on Wednesday night.

Potential ‘backlash’ if Spence dies

Chiefs are reluctantly beginning to contemplate what could happen if Spence or her co-protester Raymond Robinson die from their hunger protests.

“We have no idea about what this would trigger. So we’re scared about that,” said Madahbee.

Many chiefs are hoping that elders and people with cultural ties to Spence will be able to appeal to her to eat solid food again.

But Spence has indicated she will persist until the prime minister and Governor General hold a meeting with a broad array of chiefs.

There’s a small chance there could be a meeting Jan. 24, but Harper’s officials have said that it would be a one-on-one with National Chief Shawn Atleo, currently on sick leave because of the flu and exhaustion from dealing with political crises.

“I really think there will be a huge backlash of some sort” if Spence actually dies, said Judith Sayers, a University of Victoria assistant professor with decades of experience working with First Nations.

So many First Nations people are newly engaged in daily politics these days because of the Idle No More protest movement, and they are upset about the way meetings last week between Harper and the AFN took place, Sayers said.

“I think it could be mayhem.”

Letter from Buckingham Palace to Jonathan Francoeur.Letter from Buckingham Palace to Jonathan Francoeur. (Canadian Press) © The Canadian Press, 2013


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Chief Spence Letter to First Nations Chiefs-Grand Chiefs – Native News Network

Chief Spence Releases Letter to First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs

Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »

VICTORIA ISLAND, OTTAWA, CANADA Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence on Tuesday, Day 36 of her hunger strike, released the contents of the a letter she sent to First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa SpenceAttawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence

The letter seeks to clarify her reason for continuing her hunger strike in the wake of last week’s meetings that took place between First Nations chiefs and top Canadian officials.

In the letter, Chief Spence responds to those who have asked her to end the hunger strike she has been on since December 11.

Our exit or to end this hunger strike will be on our own terms. We ask all of you to respect that and ask you to refocus on the spirit and the intent of this movement,

she writes.

While she never mentions National Chief Shawn Atleo by name, she asks the chiefs to disregard any talk of his removal.

We call on all of you not to waste any more energy on determining the future of our National Chief – for what took place for the past month is beyond us all as individuals,

Chief Spence admonishes the chiefs.

Given the gravity of the Canada’s current First Nations crisis and particularly Chief Spence’s continued hunger strike, Native News Network is publishing the letter from Chief Spence to the First Nations chiefs in its entirety:

Victoria Island, Ottawa, January 15, 2013

Att.: All First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs

Re: Status of Hunger Strike and National Leadership Situation

Dear Chiefs and Grand Chiefs:

Today marks the 36th day of my hunger strike, 35th day for Mr. Raymond Robinson of Manitoba and yesterday Mr. Jean Sock from New Brunswick was his 28th day and his last. We owe a great depth of gratitude to Jean for his support by joining me and Raymond in our protest. In return we extend our full support and we respect his decision to end his hunger strike to attend to his ailing mother, and also to be with his youth who are struggling to comprehend our cause. We pray for his complete recovery and we send prayers to his mother, his family and to have a safe journey home.

With this letter, I want to make it clear once again the purpose of our hunger strike as well as to inform all of you the state of my health and Raymond. We also wanted to take this opportunity to express our position of the events leading to the meeting of January 11, 2013 and the current situation we are in.

As I stated from the beginning, something had to be done to bring our Nations immediate needs, treaty implementation issues among many other issues to the brought attention of the prime minister along with the Crown in meeting on Nation to Nation basis at the earliest time possible.

Now, that the meetings with the prime minister and the governor general have taken place, despite the fact that the Chiefs met with them separately, like many of you the confusion has yet to subside as I continue to wait for the details in what was actually achieved. It is without a doubt, the events leading up to the meeting of January 11, 2013 with the prime minister and the evening with the governor general, as well as the communication breakdown that day and into that night truly tested our unity once again.

Along with Mr. Raymond Robinson, Mr. Jean Sock and I, we call on all of you not to waste any more energy on determining the future of our National Chief – for what took place for the past month is beyond us all as individuals. We all began with a purpose, we had a plan, we need now to refocus and stick to the original plan to propose and follow our own agenda. This is our best chance to settle the struggles our Nations have had to endure for far too long.

We need the National Chief as much as we need each other. With the challenges ahead, we need to spend less energy fighting amongst ourselves; instead we must focus on finding a common ground, a common understanding and respecting each other’s goals and objectives. We must stand united, strengthen our unity and agree on an agenda that works for all of us and not just the few. The politics within our camp can wait and work itself out on its own time.

What we have endured here at the island is a small price to pay compared to what our ancestors, our own mothers and fathers endured. Putting aside the real purpose of our hunger strike, this was our way to pay tribute to our ancestors who have forgone some of the harshest periods in our history, to honor those among our Nations who continue to struggle for the basic standard of living to this day, as well as to raise new hope among our youth and to protect our future generations.

From the beginning, the support and prayers from all of you, from our grassroots, elders, women and particularly the youth brought us comfort and assurance that we are all in this together. This must continue.

Many of you have asked me directly or called on us indirectly to stop our hunger strike, but as we stated before, our exit or to end this hunger strike will be on our own terms. We ask all of you to respect that and ask you to refocus on the spirit and the intent of this movement.

Together, meaning the Idle No More movement, as hunger strikers, others who are fasting for the same cause with the support of our grassroots, our protesters, you the leaders, we have all been part of something historic which brought in all of us a sense of pride; our people have come together in solidarity for a common cause. The citizens of this country have also taken notice and we have their attention. Soon the rest of the world must to be informed and this Government along with the Crown must accept that the only way forward in this country is a renewed relationship with First Nations, but that it must begin within a meeting with both the PM and Governor General present.

We are honored to be able to contribute to raising awareness of our Nations pressing issues, past and current struggles, as well as the challenges ahead. As more protests are being scheduled, we hope that the peace be maintained and ask all of you to encourage your members to remain peaceful and respectful.

Furthermore, we acknowledge and respect the Idle No More movement, their founders and spokespeople for promoting awareness of the controversial omnibus bills recently passed in the Senate. Our fights may be different, but our dreams and hopes for our people are common.

We will assess carefully our next steps in the coming days and will continue to remain optimistic. Our spirits are up, but we are growing weaker by the day but we do our best to maintain our health. We ask you to respect our choices and to leave us the decision when and if this hunger strike should end.

My fellow Chiefs, on behalf of Mr. Robinson and Mr. Sock, we thank you for your continued prayers and support. We ask you now to focus on the task at hand and please do not to worry about us; our people and our youth deserve real change and nothing more. May the Creator guide us through the challenges up ahead.

Gichi Meegwetch,

Chief Theresa Spence

Attawapiskat First Nation

posted January 16, 2013 8:10 am est


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Worldwide Day of Action by Idle No More Peace Movement â?” Native News Network

Worldwide Day of Action Called by “Idle No More” Peace Movement

January 28

Native News Network Staff in Native Challenges. Discussion »

FIRST NATIONS, CANADA Idle No More grassroots founders and organizers from across Canada, in solidarity with Common Causes – a new initiative bringing together social justice, environmental, labour and other activist groups – are planning a national and worldwide day of action on January 28th. This day of action will peacefully protest attacks on democracy, Indigenous sovereignty, human rights and environmental protections when Canadian MPs return to the House of Commons on January 28th.

First Nations, Idle No MoreWorldwide Day of Action January 28th

As a grassroots movement, clearly no political organization speaks for Idle No More. This movement is of the people for the people.

The vision of Idle No More revolves around Indigenous ways of knowing rooted in Indigenous sovereignty to protect water, air, land and all creation for future generations. The Conservative government bills beginning with Bill C-45 threaten Treaties and this Indigenous vision of sovereignty. The goal of the movement is education and to revitalize Indigenous peoples through awareness and empowerment.

Idle No More has successfully encouraged knowledge sharing of Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections. This message has been heard around the world and the world is watching how Canada responds to the message sent by many Idle No More supporters.

Idle No More urges the government of Canada to repeal all legislation which violates Treaties, Indigenous sovereignty and subsequently environmental protections of land and water. Idle No More is grateful to many leaders who have supported this vision and the movement of the grassroots people.

The Treaties are the last line of defense to protect water and lands from destruction,

stated Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs.

posted January 15, 2013 6:00 am est


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“We have a deep and incredibly poisonous relationship with the Indian Act and the long roots of colonization. The Idle No More movement calls for an end to this relationship. The Idle No More movement is beginning to reawaken the spirits of the People.

We have a lot to unlearn.

We have to find our place in the circle and Idle No More is calling people back to the circle. We’re in the process of repairing ourselves as individuals, families, communities & Nations.

Everything we do is political – we are Anishinaabe.”

(quoted from this post)

This is a beautifully personal and deeply aware essay that I hope everyone will take the time to read. All of my life I have looked up to and admired activists and thinkers who I later discovered to be Nish people. When I was older I met a young lady who was so wise and knowledgeable I mistook her for a professor, when she was in fact an Anishinaabe college student. Her friendship and kindness, along with that great wisdom and knowledge had a far greater effect on my life than she is probably aware of.

Even tho Anishinaabe people are not the only ones who experience a lot of what this essay describes, many Nish people do seem to be natural leaders with a talent for speaking and writing in ways that touch a listener or reader and open our understanding.

Nearly everyone on Earth has now been colonized or is a descendant of people who have been-it has shaped our modern world into a non-culture of non-awareness. Because of this, every act of becoming more aware, of learning about your history, ancestors and real cultures is a political act. Every time we open our eyes and our minds to ideas beyond the narrow limits of the consumer “culture” box we are trained to live in, it is a political act, an act of liberation.

IdleNoMore is indeed calling us all to awaken, to rejoin the circle, heal ourselves and our communities and support one another in taking back the power from those who see all power as power-over-others, as power-to-consume-and-profit.

This essay affected me deeply, perhaps because I have some very similar experiences being mixed race and growing up far from any of my ancestors lands, always feeling not quite enough, out of place everywhere, a sort of imposition on all the people who ‘belong’ . I feel like the author is speaking to all of us, not just Native people, because even tho for many colonization happened so long ago it’s bitter effects are invisible, they are real.

Modern society has a pervasive sense of loss and emptiness that has been much written about but never resolved. I think this is because what is missing was stolen so long ago the people no longer recall what it was. Native people still remember what was stolen, and many are finding and creating ways to get it back, to rebuild what was destroyed by colonization.

It is my hope that people will come together to support First Nations people in IdleNoMore and discover not only the power of Solidarity to change the world and topple corruption and greed, but also that we ALL have a lot to unlearn. We all are called back to the circle, to heal ourselves and our communities, to rebuild a world for us all that is based on love instead of greed.


by Ryan McMahon

Want to listen to the audio version instead? Go listen to it here!

“Everything you do, Grandson, is going to be political. You’re Anishinaabe.”

Those are the words of my Grandmother.

My Grandmother wasn’t a politician or a cultural leader in any sort of way. She was a beadworker and a master of the various trades that involved moose hides. She was a good hunter and an excellent fisherman. One of my first memories I have of my Grandma was her pulling up to my parents house in the middle of the afternoon with a dead deer she had shot while hunting in Minnesota. We lived in Ontario. She drove across the US/Canada border with a dead buck on the hood of her car. I imagine the Customs officer had a hard time letting her cross that day. I can hear her stubborn defense for bringing…

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This is an excellent thought provoking post. I recommend it especially if you are a supporter of #IdleNoMore and want to understand more fully.
Tai Alfred has long been one of my heroes, thanks to my friend Estrella who introduced me to his work.

It is perhaps only my personal bias, but I feel that if we intend to resist colonized ‘culture’ and the structures it uses to enforce top-down power-over based control systems on people and the planet, the very best thing we can do is look first to indigenous scholars, teachers and activists.

These are the only people who have an understanding of what LIFE is outside of colonization, of how to really take apart the system and oppose it effectively because they have and live in other systems that are more real and functional.
(excerpt of post below)
So, what are the terms of engagement? They depend on the Indigenous land and culture that you are co-existing and co-resisting with. This is not a benign, universalizing “We are all one” project that is devoid of power relations. There must be a conscious engagement with the domination of colonialism and the active resurgence of alternative, Indigenous ways of thinking and acting in the world. Resistance is lived out, through everyday acts of resurgence. We must actively apply the theories of decolonization to our daily acts of creation and resurgence. As Taiaiake Alfred calls it in his book Wasase, we must engage in “creative contention.”


by Eric Ritskes

What are the terms of engagement for the resurgence of Indigenous nationhood?

Last night, Kahnawake Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred, in an #IdleNoMore forum hosted by the Indigenous Governance (IGOV) program at the University of Victoria (hashtagged on Twitter as #J16Forum), responded to a commenter who was distraught by the term ‘settler’ with this comment:

As a visitor, you can’t demand to be respected on your own terms.

This, along with Taiaiake’s earlier-in-the-night assertion that #IdleNoMore needs to be in tandem with a movement towards Indigenous nationhood, made me think: for decolonization to happen (something I define as -in short – resurgent action towards Indigenous sovereignty), what are the terms of engagement?

For myself, a settler in a settler-colonial state such as Canada, I believe what Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox lays out clearly, that one of the decolonization tasks is “co-existence through co-resistance“. What are the terms of…

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But the result, as The Guardian‘s Fiona Harvey points out, is that

carbon dioxide emissions will rise by more than a quarter by 2030 – a disaster, according to scientists, because if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change then studies suggest emissions must peak in the next three years or so.
Would it be beyond trite to point out that BP has a real nerve being so cocky about their environmentally damaging practices after what they did to our Gulf?

I think maybe the word “divestment” needs to be brought to play in dealing with this company very very soon.

(quote from the article below)

So-called unconventional oil – shale oil, tar sands and biofuels – are the most controversial forms of the fuel, because they are much more carbon-intensive than conventional oilfields. They require large amounts of energy and water, and have been associated with serious environmental damages.Add your thoughts here… (optional)


But before you erupt in a choir of misgivings, let us just remind you that the work you are doing now, is very different from the work you did only a few weeks ago. For you have arrived indeed, at a far loftier station than the one you so strenuously worked your way up from in the previous months. But unlike those happy go lucky travellers who only set out on a journey in order to savour the scenery, your journey has taken you to a far more interesting and indeed challenging place. For you have brought yourselves to a brand new world, where you yourselves are instrumental in making everything come about. In other words, what you will receive now, are more building blocks with which you will be better able to take part in building the new, and as such, these growing pains will signal a brand new phase on your journey. So take these pains and signals from a disgruntled body as a signal of commencement. It is indeed time to go back to work, but it will also be work that will give you great pleasure. For what you are doing is actually staking your claim to the future. For it is you who will make that future come about, and what you will be receiving from these celestial downpours of energy will help to set you up to make all of that come true.

aisha north

The tide has turned now, and the rush of the incoming energies is starting to pick up yet again. You will feel this, literally in your bones, but as always, the sometimes rather unpleasant side effects cannot entirely mask the fact that this is indeed only beneficial. Not only for you, but also for your planet. Let us explain.

By now, you are not unused to these incoming barrages of energy, far from it, but you might feel more than a little less than enthusiastic about the fact that it is time to endure another round of these at times rather painful immersions. But, they are only for your benefit, and even if some of you may think that we do this to you as some form of spite because we perhaps like to see you suffer, that is certainly not the truth. We know that this can at times…

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