Dear Prime Minister Harper,
The BC Metis Federation writes with urgency to implore you to meet with Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, as soon as possible. Our Metis members and partner communities in BC are very concerned for her wellbeing in the second week of her hunger strike.
As Metis we share her extreme frustration about the many recent cuts to Aboriginal social programs and actions like the just-passed omnibus Bill C-45. As Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo said in his December 16 open letter, Chief Spence’s hunger strike calls attention to “the dire conditions which many First Nations communities and peoples face,” and protests “the disrespect and shameful treatment of First Nations by the Government of Canada.” We urge you to hear, as we do, the pain and determination that underlie Chief Spence’s actions, and her statement that “I’m willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government to realize what (it’s) doing to us.” Her pain is shared by many Aboriginal communities and their leaders, and by many non-Aboriginal Canadians who wish to end the legacy of colonization, inequality and abuse, and live in justice and right relations between mainstream Canada and all Aboriginal Peoples. We state clearly and unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with Chief Spence’s statement that “Canada is violating the rights of Aboriginal peoples to be self-determining and continues to ignore our constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights in their lands, waters, and resources.” As a Metis representative organization in British Columbia we too have seen the dismissive Federal and Provincial Government actions through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation to address real governance issues affecting our Metis people in BC. Self governance was too be a constitutionally protected right yet we see governments ignoring the voices of Metis people in BC as real issues also affect our communities.
The relationship must fundamentally change and respect what self governance should mean for all Aboriginal peoples. We encourage you to meet in good faith with Chief Spence before her health is further endangered by this hunger strike. This is sad that she has to take these drastic lengths while her family and community are so affected. I am sure you would appreciate the situation further if it directly affected your family or that of one of your Ministers. We all want a better Canada for Aboriginal peoples but need willing partners.
Keith Henry, President
British Columbia Métis Federation
Suite 300-3665 Kingsway
cc Peter Cunningham, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Province of British Columbia
Premier Christy Clark, Province of British Columbia
Honourable Ida Chong, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Honourable Scott Fraser, Critic for Aboriginal Relations
Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Federal Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic
Honourable Jean Crowder, NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic
BC Métis Federation Board Members
BC Métis Federation Members
[ilink url=”/wp-content/uploads/BCMF-Letter-to-Prime-Minister-Harper-December-24th-2012-Chief-Spence.pdf” style=”download”]Click here to download this letter in PDF format.[/ilink]