United Church of Canada implores Harper to meet with hunger striker Chief Spence

Idle No More Ottawa Rideau Centre Dec 30 2012 (2)by United Church of Canada:

December 19, 2012

The Right Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario
Fax: 613-941-6900

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

We write with urgency to implore you to meet with Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, as soon as possible. We are very concerned for her wellbeing in the second week of her hunger strike. We share her extreme frustration about the many recent cuts to social programs, and actions like the just-passed omnibus Bill C-45. As Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo said in his December 16 open letter, Chief Spence’s hunger strike calls attention to “the dire conditions which many First Nations communities and peoples face,” and protests “the disrespect and shameful treatment of First Nations by the Government of Canada.”

We urge you to hear, as we do, the pain and determination that underlie Chief Spence’s actions, and her statement that “I’m willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government to realize what (it’s) doing to us.” Her pain is shared by many Indigenous communities and their leaders, and by many, many non-Aboriginal Canadians who wish to end the legacy of colonization, inequality and abuse, and live in justice and right relations between mainstream Canada and the First Peoples.

We state clearly and unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with Chief Spence’s statement that “Canada is violating the right of Aboriginal peoples to be self-determining and continues to ignore (their) constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights in their lands, waters, and resources.”

As one of the Christian bodies that ran Indian Residential Schools in collaboration with the Canadian government, The United Church of Canada shares Canada’s colonial legacy. In 1986, our denomination apologized to Aboriginal peoples for confusing “Western ways and culture with the depth and breadth and length and height of the gospel of Christ.” In 1998, we apologized specifically to former residential schools students and their families, for the damage we inflicted in the residential schools process.

The challenge to all of us is to walk the road of justice and reconciliation. We encourage you to meet in good faith with Chief Spence before her health is further endangered by this hunger strike.

In faith,

Ray Jones,
Chair, Aboriginal Ministries Council
The United Church of Canada

The Rev. Bruce Gregersen,
General Council Officer, Programs

The United Church of Canada

CC: Shawn Atleo, Chief Theresa Spence, and leaders of all federal parties

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