Meeting with PM won't stall Idle No More

'It's got a momentum going now. That isn't going to stop with just sitting down and having tea and talking about the weather'

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
January 4, 2013 01:00 AM

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence stands with fellow hunger strikers Jean Sock, right in blue, Raymond Robinson, second from right in green, and supporter Danny Metatawabin, left, during a press conference outside her teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa on Friday. Spence has been on a hunger strike for more than three weeks.

Idle No More rallies and a Tk'emlups elder's hunger strike will not end just because Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to sit down with First Nations leaders.

"It's got a momentum going now," local organizer Lenora Starr said Friday. "That isn't going to stop with just sitting down and having tea and talking about the weather."

Tk'emlups elder Evelyn Camille, 73, has agreed to break her isolation Saturday to meet with Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod and senator Nancy Greene Raine.

Harper also agreed Friday to meet with First Nations Jan. 11, about 10 days earlier than the date the Assembly of First Nations had proposed in a bid to both calm protests and put an end Chief Theresa Spence's nearly month-long hunger strike.

Spence expressed joy at the news, and added she plans to attend the meeting. She said she won't close her encampment on Victoria Island, where she has lived without solid food since Dec. 11.

The Prime Minister's Office said the meeting will be co-ordinated by the Assembly of First Nations and will focus on treaty relationships, aboriginal rights and economic development.

Starr said the future of Idle No More is in the hands of Spence and other First Nations leaders and their conversations with government.

"I'd go right back to Theresa and ask, 'Is that what you're looking for?'" she said.

Until then, rallies, marches and other activities will continue, she said.

True to her word, Starr joined an Idle No More rally outside the Merritt Civic Centre Friday night. Inside, Mayor Susan Roline hosted a reception for B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.

Tk'emlups Indian Band member Dave Manuel also attended the rally. He hoped Guichon's presence would draw more attention to the cause, he said.

"It's going to be a big event because of who she represents," said Manuel, adding at least 100 people were expected to take part.

Starr doesn't want to give the wrong impression, though, adding the meeting with Harper is a good first step toward addressing aboriginal concerns.

"Any movement toward discussions is always a good thing," she said.

Camille was on Day 3 of her fast in support of Spence and Idle No More when Harper's announcement came. Daughter-in-law Carol Camille said her mother-in-law felt this was an opportune time to meet with Greene Raine and McLeod

Green Raine's office had contacted her mother-in-law prior to the meeting being arranged. Camille said the senator wanted to speak about the fast.

McLeod said the women's health could be compromised the longer the hunger strike and fasting continues. She encouraged Spence to bring hers to an end.

Next week's meeting is being billed as a follow-through on talks in January 2012 when the government and First Nations committed to an ongoing dialogue.

"While some progress has been made, there is more that must be done to improve outcomes for First Nations communities across Canada," Harper said in a statement.

"The government of Canada and First Nations have an enduring historic relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and support. The government of Canada is committed to strengthening this relationship."

Harper did not acknowledge Spence's ongoing hunger strike when asked about the meetings at an event in Oakville, Ont. And with regards to the broader Idle No More movement, he remained vague.

"In this country, people have the right in our country to demonstrate and express their points of view peacefully as long as they obey the law," he said.

Protesters have threatened to shut down parts of the Canada-U.S. border today as part of ongoing protests.

* * *

Denying food through fast and hunger strike comes with risks, nutritionist says

Disorientation, low energy and an ill temper are among the symptoms First Nations women in the midst of a fast and hunger strike can expect as their protests continue, a holistic nutritionist said Friday.

Tk'emlups elder Evelyn Camille has been fasting in her sweat lodge since Wednesday while Attawapsiskat Chief Theresa Spence has subsisted mainly on fish broth for almost a month in a teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa.

Rhonda Eden of Alive & Well Nutrition, Lifestyle and Fitness Consulting said the fact Camille intends to go without food and water for seven days is concerning.

When someone fasts, she recommends they take in sugars and calories with juice or broth. Eden said the body shouldn't go without water for a whole week.

"You can't live all that long without water," she said. "I've never prescribed a fast with no water."

As for Spence, Eden knows people who have fasted on broth for three weeks, so her hunger strike hasn't yet entered the realm of dangerous. But a 21-day fast is usually done under controlled circumstances, she said.

Eden said the brain and body need sugar and calories to function. Without them a person's mood, stress levels, concentration and motivation are affected.

"After a week, you can expect lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of concentration and your mood can be really low," she said.

Eden said a body will eventually begin to shut down and die without proper sustenance, but she isn't sure how long that would take.

"You can only go so long before your organs start to shut down on you," she said.

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