Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is helped back to her teepee after greeting and welcoming supporters as they visit her on Victoria Island in Ottawa on Thursday, January 3, 2013. Spence is in her fourth week of a hunger strike calling on Harper to meet and discuss First Nations issues.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

As grassroots demonstrations and blockades continued, and a Northern Ontario chief's hunger strike stretched into its 24th day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed on Friday to a working meeting with key first nations leaders on Jan. 11 to discuss treaty rights.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began her hunger strike with a demand for a meeting among herself, native leaders, Mr. Harper and the Governor-General as a condition of ending her fast. She now says she will continue until she is satisfied with the outcome of next week's meeting and ongoing discussions. The announcement also failed to quell the anger fuelling the Idle No More movement, with protesters vowing on Friday to rally on a bridge leading to the U.S. border in southwestern Ontario on Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Harper said in a statement that did not mention Ms. Spence that he was prepared to meet with a delegation of leaders co-ordinated by the Assembly of First Nations.

Story continues below advertisement

At a gathering of the Crown and first nations last year, the government and chiefs agreed to an ongoing dialogue with clear goals to measure progress, he said.

"While some progress has been made, there is more that must be done to improve outcomes for first nations communities across Canada." It is in that spirit, Mr. Harper said, that he has agreed to another meeting.

Ms. Spence, who will attend the meeting, said it must produce concrete action and a promise of additional talks before she will give up her fast.

"We will see what the results are, whether there really are positive results," she said when asked on Friday to explain what it would take now to end the hunger strike. "There are a lot of issues that we need to express and really work together [on] as partners."

Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the AFN, said the face-to-face discussion would be an opportunity for the government to honour its responsibilities.

But the gathering is expected to do little to reduce the swell of protests being conducted under the banner of Idle No More.

"Hell, no," Tanya Kappo of Edmonton, one of the early organizers of Idle No More, replied when asked if the meeting would be enough to stop the demonstrations. "We are newly inspired."

Story continues below advertisement

In addition, she said, Idle No More is a grassroots movement that is independent of first nations leaders and their actions.

Idle No More demonstrators are protesting against several federal bills, including omnibus budget legislation that has already been passed, that they say will have negative consequences for native people and their communities.

Those bills will not vanish as a result of a one-day gathering, Ms. Kappo said. "It really fixes nothing."

About 40 people briefly blocked a major road outside the Ford Motor Co. plant in Oakville, Ont., where Mr. Harper made an announcement on Friday.

"The fact that he responded to Shawn Atleo and not to Chief Theresa Spence, I think, is a blatant kind of action of trying to divide the community, which is unfortunate," said Wanda Nanibush, a Toronto organizer for Idle No More, who was protesting in Oakville.

Some organizers for Idle No More received the news of Mr. Harper's meeting offer with a mix of triumph and trepidation.

Story continues below advertisement

Khelsilem Rivers of Vancouver, who has helped stage events gathering hundreds of people almost daily, said Mr. Harper's apparent willingness to meet is "a positive step," but that it will be met with suspicion.

"A lot of grassroots people are going to be kind of hesitant, waiting to see what kind of meaningful action comes from [the meeting]. We've done this before," he said. "There were lots of promises from this government, but a lot of them were either not followed through with, or the complete opposite took place."

Although he sees the meeting as progress, Mr. Rivers described it as "a calculated tactic by Stephen Harper and the government in terms of meeting with a very mainstream organization like the AFN, which a lot of grassroots people do have issues with."

Mr. Rivers said plans are in the works for a national grassroots mobilization on Jan. 11 to coincide with the meeting of leaders, and education campaigns will continue after that. Meanwhile, local branches planned demonstrations at Canada-U.S. border crossings for Saturday. A Sarnia Police spokesperson confirmed that the force expects protesters to try to block the Blue Water Bridge from noon to 1 p.m.

Many first nations chiefs expressed skepticism that concrete results would arise from the one-day meeting with Mr. Harper. There were also questions about who would be allowed to participate.

Grand Chief Stan Louttit of the Mushkegowuk Council, which includes Attawapiskat, said last year's Crown/first-nations gathering with Mr. Harper offered little direct time with the Prime Minister and only a limited number of chiefs could attend.

Story continues below advertisement

Then, a month later,"the budget came out and just ripped us apart," Mr. Louttit said of funding cuts to aboriginal organizations. "So we are looking for better results this time around."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies