The Ontario Public Service Employees Union
is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet with Attawapiskat First
Nation Chief Theresa Spence who is now into the fourth day of a hunger
strike over her request to meet with the PM to discuss solutions to
deteriorating conditions on the James Bay reserve.
“Stephen Harper’s silence on Chief Spence’s
simple request is deafening,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
“Instead of witnessing an honourable person like Theresa Spence slowly
starve herself, the Prime Minister must show leadership on a serious
aboriginal issue that keeps festering without any sign of resolution.”
Chief Spence elected to begin her hunger
strike in Ottawa on Dec. 11 when her repeated requests to meet with the
Prime Minister to discuss Attawapiskat went unmet. The message she wants to
deliver to the PM is that nothing has changed more than a year after she
declared a state of emergency on the reserve because of crumbling
infrastructure and rampant economic and social problems.
OPSEU Aboriginal Circle chair Pauline Saulnier likened conditions in Attawapiskat and dozens of other aboriginal
reserves across northern Canada to “a shameful page out of some Third World
“Theresa Spence is one of our most respected
leaders,” said Saulner. “Mr. Harper’s refusal to meet with her is not just
an insult to her but an insult to all aboriginal people in this country.”
James Clancy, president of the National
Union of Public and General Employees, echoed OPSEU’s demand that the Prime
Minister meet with Chief Spencer.
“Instead of doing photo ops with pop stars
or newlyweds or kissing babies, Stephen Harper should organize an emergency
meeting with Chief Spence and listen hard to what she has to say. The time
for Harper to do nothing is over.”