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Duncan wants to meet with striking hunger chief

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has offered to meet with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spense conducting a hunger strike. - Photo submitted
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has offered to meet with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spense conducting a hunger strike.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says he has offered to meet with Attawapiskat’s hunger striking Chief Theresa Spense on Jan. 3. And. he hinted that he has something “concrete” to bring to the table.

His announcement came at the same time the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network was reporting that Chief Spence had again called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston to meet with First Nations leaders from across the country to discuss treaty issues.

Spence is in the ninth day of a hunger strike and she is spending most of her days and nights in a teepee on Victoria Island near Parliament Hill.

Here in Campbell River Minister Duncan told the Campbell River Mirror: “I placed another call to her this morning. I’ve offered to meet with her and I will return to Ottawa and be available. I have given her a date, Jan. 3. I’m wide open to doing that.

“She has indicated she’s not satisfied to meet with me. She wants to meet with the prime minister and the governor general at a minimum. So, as time moves along, I’m hopeful we can come to some kind of accommodation together.”

The minister said he understands Chief Spense “wants to move forward on the treaty relationship between the Crown and the First Nations. I’ve had some discussions with the national chief in this regard already and I’ll be able to propose something fairly concrete by the end of this week.”

Chief Spense said: “I am calling on Prime Minister Harper and the governor general to initiate immediate discussions and the development of action plans to address treaty issues with First Nations across Canada. There has been no progress in alleviating the state of poverty that exists with First Nations across Canada, especially in rural isolated reserves, contrary to progress reported by the Conservative government.”

The Prime Minister’s Office has indicated it is unlikely Harper will agree to the meeting. The PMO said Monday the prime minister already attended the Crown-First Nations gathering last January which included Gov. Gen. Johnston and First Nations leaders from across the country.

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