Tk'emlups elder remains steadfast

Day 2 of hunger strike in support of Idle No More

Sylvie Paillard Daily News Staff Reporter with The Canadian Press / Kamloops Daily News
January 3, 2013 01:00 AM

Drummers and others gather around a fire Thursday, next to a sweat lodge where Evelyn Camille is in day two of a hunger strike in support of Chief Theresa Spence and the Idle No More movement.

Tk'emlups elder Evelyn Camille remained steadfast during the second day of her hunger strike on Thursday.

Camille, a former Tk'emlups band councillor, intends to go seven days without food or water in support of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

"She still appears to be quite strong in what she's doing and determined to keep up with everything that's going on," said Carol Camille of her mother-in-law.

Spence is now on the 25th day of her liquids-only hunger strike in Ottawa, and her spokesman says she is fragile.

Camille is in complete isolation in a sweat lodge on her West Shuswap Road property except for a spiritual leader who visits her briefly each day and ascertains her well being.

Both women are trying to raise awareness over the plight of Canadian First Nations and the perceived threat to their rights and territories contained in the federal government's omnibus Bill C-45.

Their actions are part of numerous grassroots protests under the Idle No More banner that have broken out across the country and there have been several blockades of transportation corridors.

Camille received support through the drumming and singing of First Nations residents who gathered outside the sweat lodge Thursday afternoon.

Before entering the lodge, Camille said she intended to spend her days praying and in contemplation. She also wants to review the 400-page bill she's opposing but a copy hasn't yet been made available, said Carol.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, First Nations leaders met on Thursday to clarify Spence's demands in the hopes of getting closer to a resolution of the recent unrest.

National Chief Shawn Atleo met several key regional chiefs from the area surrounding Spence's Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario.

At the same time, Atleo issued what he called an urgent invitation to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston to meet chiefs on Jan. 24 - the one-year anniversary of Harper's summit with First Nations.

"First Nations across this country have been voicing concern and frustration with a broken system that does not address long-standing disparities between First Nations and the rest of Canada," Atleo said in a news release.

"There is no excuse for inaction either by First Nations leadership or by Canada."

Spence is demanding discussions with Harper and Johnston about revisiting the treaty rights of First Nations, although the scope of her demands has left government officials puzzled.

Harper has not agreed to meet Spence, but Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has tried repeatedly to speak with her, to no avail.

In recent letters to Spence and a letter to Atleo in November, Duncan has proposed a First Nations-federal government working group on treaty implementation and a separate discussion on comprehensive claim negotiations.

But since the exchange of letters and promise for treaty talks in November, tension has escalated.

Spence says there will be more Idle No More disruptions and threatens "countrywide economic disturbances," unless Harper meets her.

Atleo, however, stresses the need for peaceful protest and concrete solutions.

"It's time for the Crown to honour its relationship and responsibilities to First Nations starting with the recognition and affirmation of our inherent and treaty rights," he said. "It's time for all First Nations citizens and their leaders to drive solutions."

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