NWAC President writes to PM Harper regarding Chief Spence

by Michèle Audette | Native Women’s Association of Canada,  Jan 16, 2013

Michèle Taïna Audette, President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Michèle Taïna Audette, President, Native Women’s Association of Canada

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

Let me introduce myself, my name is Michèle Audette, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.  I am a mother of five adorable children, and I am deeply committed to my nation and my people in both political and social issues.  I am also proud of my Innu and Quebec cultures.

In my role as President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, it was natural for me to visit Chief Spence at the beginning of her hunger strike; I went to support her woman to woman and leader to leader. I accepted the invitation of this courageous woman to stay with her in her teepee during my stay in Ottawapiskat (Victoria Island) during her hunger strike.  I have been very close to the political action and wish to remind you that the health of Chief Spence is deteriorating day by day.

I beg you to take the necessary steps to hold this meeting as it shows good faith towards First Nations.  The meeting would also allow the return of Chief Spence to her family. It is a very simple meeting, which requires the attendance of the Prime Minister, the Governor General and our elected officials. I would like to remind you that your American counter-part, President Barack Obama, is in his fourth meeting with Aboriginal leaders in the United States.

I am aware that you have a team of people around you who advise you and that you entrust them to prepare opinions and lines of discourse. At this time, I am asking you to ignore your political advisers, to open your heart and accept the meeting on January 24th. I am sure you can imagine that you will be the first who will be singled out by the international community, Canadians and the Aboriginal peoples should Chief Spence fast until death.  I do not think you would want to have that on your conscience.

I know that the people of the Assembly First Nations and some leaders tried to convince Chief Spence to stop her hunger strike. Unfortunately for them, she refused and they still accepted your invitation for the meeting on January 11th.  Based on your announcement, it was not a planned meeting with Mrs. Spence, and you have submitted the offer of “take it or leave it,” which I think is no offering at all.

All Canadians, supporters of Idle No More, First Nation leaders and I want Mrs. Spence returned to her family and her community. However, strong convictions prevail and Chief Spence will continue her hunger strike on behalf of all Aboriginal children, women, men and elders.  As supporters of Idle No More, we respect this gesture until the meeting occurs.

I, therefore, repeat the request of the Chief Theresa Spence to invite all the leaders of Canada at the meeting scheduled on January 24th for the second gathering between First Nations and the Crown under shaputuan (great gathering place). Thus, Canada will remember you as a leader who is willing to open dialogue as did your predecessor, Mr. Brian Mulroney, when he asked for a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

Just like me, you have values, beliefs and convictions that motivate you. Part of the Canadian population showed a renewed confidence in you in the last election.  It should not be forgotten that different political parties represent the rest of the population.  Nobody wants to have on his conscience that Canada starved a mother simply because she requested a meeting for the welfare of her people.

Since 1974 the Native Women’s Association of Canada with the support of dedicated women and volunteers from all regions of Canada has been working to improve the well-being of Aboriginal women, their families and their communities through empowerment and advocacy.  We support the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn A-In-Chut Atleo, when he talks of the major change that is needed in the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and Canada. Count me in! Aboriginal women are more than starters – we are in it for the long haul!

I sincerely hope that the cries of my heart have touched yours and I pray, Mr. Prime Minister, that you accept my most sincere greetings.

A message from the heart,

Michèle Audette

Innu women
NWAC President

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