Willing to die unless the Federal government starts showing more respect to First Nations

“ONWA’s vision is to be a unified voice for equity, equality and justice for Aboriginal women. On a daily basis, ONWA advocates on behalf of Aboriginal women and their families for safer communities, improved and increased access to social services, increased affordable housing, improved and self-governed education, and for the elimination of violence,” says Betty Kennedy, ONWA Executive Director.

Ontario Native Women's AssociationTHUNDER BAY – “Willing to die unless the Federal government starts showing more respect to First Nations concerns and Aboriginal treaties, Chief Theresa Spence personifies the strength of Aboriginal women and their commitment to our communities,” stated Betty Kennedy, ONWA Executive Director. “Over 600 Aboriginal women and girls have already lost their lives due to the systemic injustice and racism that plagues our people, how many more lives need to be lost before action is taken?”

Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation launched a hunger strike on Tuesday, December 11th in protest of the persistent systemic disrespect shown to First Nation peoples by the Federal government. The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is joining in the support for her cause and strongly urges for an immediate and meaningful response by the Federal government. 

The purpose of the hunger strike is to force a meeting between Aboriginal leaders, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a representative of the Crown regarding the dysfunctional relationship between the government and our First Nation Peoples.   

One particular area of contention is the omnibus Bill C-45 which drastically impacts First Nations rights through the proposed changes to the Indian Act, Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and the Navigable Water Protection Act. The proposed changes would also strip First Nations of their inherent rights to sovereignty and once again disregard Canada’s Crown obligations for consultation and accommodation. 

Chief Spence has said she wants the federal government to withdraw recent legislation which was forced on Aboriginal peoples and calls for the reversal of its decision to cut funding to First Nation organizations and communities – and she is willing to risk her own life in the hopes that these needs will be met. 

ONWA supports her in her demands and strongly agrees that the relationship between First Nations people and the Federal government needs to change immediately, starting with a more open and respectful dialogue between our Nation’s leaders. It is time for the Federal government to stop blatantly ignoring their fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of First Nation Peoples, and to finally work towards resolving the wide range of issues that affect First Nations communities.