Spence and Robinson end fasts call on Canadians to fix years of

first_imgBy Kenneth JacksonAPTN National NewsOttawa – The fast may be over, but the fight continues.That was the message delivered Thursday as Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and Elder Raymond Robinson officially ended their weeks-old fast.“It does not end because the hunger strike ends. The fight continues. We have mobilized a nation,” said Spence spokesman Danny Metatawabin at a press conference Thursday. “You, Canadians, we want our rightful place as well…We will stand up. We will persevere. We want to be acknowledged.”Spence couldn’t attend the press conference but Robinson was there, as well as Liberal leader Bob Rae, NDP MP Romeo Saganash and Saskatchewan Assembly of First Nations regional chief Perry Bellegarde.Metatawabin said Spence was bedridden under doctors’ orders. She went to the hospital Wednesday and was put on an IV. She may be released later Thursday or Friday.Robinson, from Cross Lake, Man., said he also attended the hospital but when he was being seen a by a nurse he said she questioned why he was there, how he got there and had no clue Robinson had been on a fast for 43 days. Robinson said he felt the nurse was almost racist and walked out without being assessed.He said his fast, next to Spence’s side, was a rollercoaster ride for him and his family.“It is with mixed emotions, a lot of stress, joy, jubilation that I make the statement today that the journey of my hunger strike ends,” said Robinson before taking questions from media. “It’s a rollercoaster ride for my sake, my family’s sake…for the journey I took upon myself to try and get some kind of word out to general population in respect to the way my people have been treated over the course of these generations.”Robinson said it’s amazing in this day and age that First Nation people still struggle to control what’s theirs – land, water and resources – while the federal government tries to take control of it all.He said when Europeans first arrived they survived because of Indigenous peoples.“We nurtered you guys and gave you our medicine. You guys would have died without our medicine, without us teaching you how to live and survive in this country,” he said. “We forged a relationship with you guys hoping that you would be our partners in everything – 50/50. You smoked our Pipe to symbolize the relationship we wanted to forge with you.”But it didn’t work that way.Through time the non-Aboriginal society thought they could take everything from the First Peoples said Robinson.That includes their children and Indian Residential Schools.“I’m an Indian Residential School survivor. I went to three Residential Schools,” he said. “The government of Canada tried to take my identity away from me, my life, my language, my being a First Nation person to try assimilate me into a foreign culture I don’t know about.”This rooted his 43-day fast that began a day after Spence began hers on Dec. 11. They survived on tea and fish broth.But there was more to the fast.“To tell the world, to tell Canada that enough is enough,” said Robinson. “Can’t you just leave us alone, can’t we just be ordinary people in this land, can we have the same opportunities you guys live in a daily basis…can I be received as a human being in my own land.”He said Bill C-38 gives the government power to do what they wish in First Nation territories. Bill C-45 takes control of their resources he said.To make changes such as Robinson is saying the government is to consult with First Nations as per the Constitution Rae reminded reporters in the gallery.That was the main reason behind the Idle No More movement that now includes hundred of years of oppression.“This is your fight too. These acts, these bills will kill us all,” said Robinson. “Fight with us and make sure these bills don’t go anywhere.”Bill C-45 became law just before Christmas.APTN National News reported early Wednesday morning that Spence had already decided to end the fast but news of the end came much later in the day.Spence and Robinson officially agreed to end their fast based on a 13-point plan endorsed by the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women’s Society of Canada, the NDP and Liberal caucuses. The plan calls for such things as proper funding for education, respecting treaty rights and consulting First Nations on changes to their lives.Spence, however, was facing pressure from her own band council to end the fast and a delegation from Attawapiskat was to leave for Ottawa Wednesday to hand-deliver a letter urging her to quit the protest or face removal as chief.Her health was also starting to fail and she had been considering a way to end the protest on a high note after realizing she would not be able to obtain her goal of forcing a meeting between the prime minister, the governor general and First Nations leaders.Spence’s teepee on Victoria Island became a type of pilgrimage destination for many First Nations people across Canada who came to visit her, offer her gifts and blessings.“We end our hunger strikes with signed commitments from elected First Nations leaders and opposition parties to urgently carry forward our action plan which ensure that our treaty rights are recognized, honoured and fully implemented,” said Spence in a released statement. “Indigenous peoples have lived well below the poverty line in a country that is considered one of the wealthiest in the world. We are no longer idle and precedence has been established over this past six weeks. There’s no going back, our voices have been heard and now I ask for your involvement to move our agenda forward.”The opposition leaders said they will use the 13-point declaration as a “blue print” going forward to push Prime Minister Stephen Harper on First Nation issues.“I view this document as a blueprint for the future in our relations with First Nations in this country and what the NDP is saying, essentially, is we are endorsing this document because we want to accompany you on this road, on this journey to a better future, for a better tomorrow for your communities,” said Saganash.Rae said the document is also a sign of political will.“I think you have to see the document as an expression of political will on our part, and on the part of the AFN, and on part of the (NDP), and on part of a lot of other people on behalf of lot of other Canadians. I think there are a lot of Canadians who want us to move forward,” he said. “Is it something that the Conservatives are going to sign on to tomorrow? Some of it they might, some of it they might not. I think there is a process of public persuasion that needs to go on. I accept that.”That begins with education said Metatawabin.“We need to educate the Canadian people of who we are. I hold this feather in honour because it recognizes a symbol, a closeness I have with the Creator, but you, the average Canadian, probably just think it’s a feather,” he said. “This is who we are. We are spiritual people. It goes back to the treaties. There is a spiritual intent and we have to bridge that gap.”[email protected]@afixedaddresslast_img

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