Is Harper stubborn enough to create a martyr?

Chief Teresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nations is into her third week of her hunger strike. Her chief demand has NOT been for a personal meeting with Harper, as some are claiming (both friends and opponents) but:

Spence launched her protest with a vow to “die” unless the Conservative government started showing more respect to First Nations concerns and aboriginal treaties. She is demanding a meeting between the Crown, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and First Nations leaders to create a new relationship.

That has been reiterated in a tweet by Bob Rae this AM:

Chief Spence has made it clear to me in our conversations she is NOT asking private audience with Mr Harper. Wants promise to meet chiefs.

A personal meeting with Spence would be actually going above and beyond what Spence has been asking for, and hunger-striking about – though it would be a gesture that would show some …humanity on Harper’s part. Harper’s relationship with the First Nations has never been cozy (other then the “apology” he offered in the House of Commons for past actions, which appears to have been nothing more then words), and the relationship with Attawapiskat has been particularly frosty, but is he really that pig-headed to allow a Chief to die rather then meet a bunch of the AFN chiefs on respecting current treaties?

Creating a martyr will be far worse then meeting the Chiefs. A few of the rednecks on Harper’s base might bellow about it, but their views don’t represent the vast majority of the Canadian people, or voters.

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These Conservatives must really hate Charlie Angus

Mr. Angus is the NDP MP for the Timmins-James Bay riding, if you’re not aware. This happens to be the riding that the Attawapiskat Native Reserve is in, where the conditions are so poor, members of the Canadian Red Cross volunteered to go up and try to help the Natives, and the Ontario government also offered aid, despite Ottawa claiming this was their jurisdiction – embarrassing the federal Conservative government in the process – internationally, I might add.

What does the Conservative government do? It decides rather then bowing to pressure to step in and help these folks, its going to try and insinuate the people there of wasting the money they sent, conducting audits and taking away First Nations control of funding for the area, despite the fact the community gets audited every year.

If A Conservative MP held this riding – such as perhaps Mr. Muskoka, Tony Clement – you can bet this problem wouldn’t be a problem. There might be a gazebo or two here, plus some other largesse, but they wouldn’t have the issues they do. This has been going on for years with the Conservatives refusing to help Attawapiskat – remember the school issue that garnered United Nations attention? This government obviously has a hate on for these people, between their willingness to publicize their problems internationally, and it being a non-government held seat.

Bottom line is: this Conservative government apparently doesn’t treat First Nations or non-government held ridings with much importance.. it treats them with contempt, if anything.

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A new low in ‘ten-percenter’ political ads from the Conservatives.

I have to agree with Cameron: this is probably the most disgusting cheap-shot type “ten-percenter” political ads I’ve seen come from the Conservatives (which is saying a lot, considering what they’ve been sending out), and I say that even when it’s not targeting a Liberal. It’s targeting NDP MP Charlie Angus, the MP who has been highlighting the plight of the children of the First Nations of Attawapiskat and fighting for them to get a new school to replace their old contaminated one.

To say that this ad is full of bunk is an understatement. This 10 percenter flyer is full of Pierre Poilievre-type cheapshots in this thing, delivered to Attawapiskat, and the rest of Angus’s riding (Timmins-James Bay), courtesy of Greg Rickford, Conservative MP for Kenora. 

Are these the Conservative talking points on why Attawapiskat doesn’t deserve a new school? I have to think so, if they’re going out on a 10-percenter-ad. A Conservative MP doesn’t just send these out willy-nilly without the Conservative War Room/PMO approval.

That’s these kids, in case you forgot, Minister Strahl and Greg Rickford:

There is absolutely no reason for the government to be stonewalling over this school, which is what they are doing. Charlie Angus is doing his job as the riding’s MP and Attawapiskat’s MP in highlighting what is going on there and what isn’t going on in Conservative-run Ottawa to fix it. Harper and the Conservatives response is to attack Angus with a totally misleading flier, trying to blame Angus for repeatedly and persistently bringing this issue up, and blaming him for causing the Conservatives not to want to build this school.

I’m not surprised they would stoop to doing this; what I’m surprised at is they think anyone in Charlie Angus’s riding – including the folks in Attawapiskat – are going to buy their bunk.

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How you can help Attawapiskat: Sign the petition!

We’ve raised some awareness of this Cree Community and its children’s lack of a school, but how else can people act to help these folks in the fight for a proper school?

You can go here and sign a petition calling on the Federal Government to do just that. I could have also provided a link to write Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, but I suspect that would be like talking to a wall. I think the strength in numbers approach will work better in busting that wall over for the people of Attawapiskat.

UPDATE: I’ve added this link to the frontpage at Progressive Bloggers, since there’s been a very good response and people have been writing about this and asking what they can do to help. I think a bit of frontpage exposure in the announcements section over there is more then justified.

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Attawapiskat: the human faces to Conservative indifference.

This is a picture of children from the Cree community of Appawapiskat. The community and these kids have been advocating to the federal government for years for funds to help build a new school to replace their old one, which has been declared condemned. They had received promises from both federal Liberal and Conservative Indian Affairs Ministers that the school would be built, but nothing has been done. Now, however, the ultra-compassionate (said with sarcasm) Chuck Strahl has point-blank said that the school wouldn’t be built. Not on the priority list, according to Chuck, even though these kids have been without a school for eight years.

In the meantime, one of the kids, Thirteen-year-old Shannen Koostachin, has been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize for her efforts in getting the new school. That award is given out by the same folks who give out the Nobel Peace Prize. It would be a great honour for Shannen, and at the same time an extreme embarrassment to the Conservative government, if she were to win that award and the school had still been refused funding.

That isn’t the only action these kids have taken:

The youth have sent notice to the federal government, letting them know they intend to send a report to the UN detailing Indian and Northern Affairs’ failure to build a school. It will be addressed in the upcoming review of Canada’s obligations under the Conventions on the Rights of the Child. “We want what every other kid takes for granted, we want a new school,” said Shannen Koostachin, 14…The group would like to invite the UN to visit Attawapiskat and “walk a mile in our moccasins” to see what students are forced to live with every day — a request Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Minister Chuck Strahl denied when students visited Ottawa.

Of course Chuck would deny the UN the opportunity to visit the community – because it would guarantee international condemnation (which it still might anyhow). It would show the world that while the Conservatives may mouth apologies for past wrong deeds and speak nice words (which still get sneered at by the likes of Pierre Poilievre), it can’t act on current wrong deeds.

H/T to Cam for highlighting the plight of the kids and community of Attawapiskat and asking if other bloggers would also highlight this to try and raise awareness. I’m happy to do so.

UPDATE@7:08pm: Robert over at Blast Furnace Canada has also blogged about this.

UPDATE 2@7:11pm: I see that Troy had also bogged about this earlier. I feel a blogburst coming on.

UPDATE 3@9:08pm: Impolitical joins in, as does Wandering Coyote in an addenum to a blogpost

UPDATE 4@9:14pm: Jim over at the Progressive Right chimes in.

UPDATE 5@9:50pm: Jim Curran doesn’t do a blogpost does a blogpost, which is a CC of my blogpost, and does put up a link and pic on his sidebar. Stageleft does the same thing at their site, and adds his own blogburst

UPDATE 6@Aug 7,2008, 5am: More bloggers posting about this story here, here, and here.

UPDATE 7@9:46am: Canadian Cynic mentions this here.

UPDATE 8@10:06am: Jimbobby blogs about this situation here.

UPDATE 9@1:30pm: Pogge and Skinny blog about this.

UPDATE 10@1:35 pm: Dr Dawg blogs it.

UPDATE 11@5:53pm: Saskboy blogs it, and to his credit, Darcey at Dust My Broom, a Conservative-supporting blog, does as well, though the commentators at his blog are for the most part, showing their ignorance typical of the right-wing these days.

UPDATE 12@10:00pm: Paladiea over at her blog comments on this shameful situation.

UPDATE 13@11:00pm: Northern BC Dipper and A Creative Revolution also chime in.

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