Spence should not be ignored

An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Last Sunday, we prayed for courage and resolve for Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat

An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

Last Sunday, we prayed for courage and resolve for Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat, in her determination to hold to her fast until you meet with her to discuss poverty in First Nations communities, the federal government’s gutting of environmental legislation, and extreme changes to legislation affecting indigenous rights.

In 2008, when, on behalf of the government of Canada, you apologized for the residential school system, I had some hope that we would begin to mend our relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

In July 2012, Canada supported the UN Charter on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It says, “In doing so, Canada reaffirms its commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples at home and abroad.”

First Nations are constitutionally entitled to substantive consultations.  However with the recent actions of the ‘Harper government’ it appears that nothing could be further from the truth.

In June, your government forced through Bill C-38, which eliminated the National Aboriginal Health Organization, made cuts to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and environmental protection.

Now Bill C-45 is a direct attack on First Nations lands and on rivers and lakes we all share across this country.

Is this really the legacy you want to leave?  It is certainly not what I want my country to stand for.

All Canadians who want to see a livable and just future in our country, share the concerns being raised by Chief Spence.  The recent omnibus bills defeat these goals.

If your government is sincere in promoting indigenous rights and working in partnership, now is the time to meet with Chief Spence and listen to what she has to say.  I hope you will hear the voices of Canadians with conscience standing with her.

Rev. Juanita Austin
First United Church