Harper to meet with First Nations leaders Jan. 11
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence speaks to reporters during a press conference outside her teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, January 4, 2013 12:14PM PST
Last Updated Friday, January 4, 2013 12:15PM PST
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan say they will meet a delegation of First Nations leaders next Friday.
The meeting, to be co-ordinated by the Assembly of First Nations, will focus on treaty relationships and aboriginal rights and economic development, the prime minister's office said in a statement.
The statement was released moments before a news conference by aboriginal leaders and opposition critics to discuss the fading health of Theresa Spence, the hunger-striking chief of the poverty-racked Attawapiskat First Nation.
Spence -- who has been vowing to continue her protest until Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston sit down with First Nations leaders -- said Thursday such a meeting would have to take place within 72 hours.
Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a regional advocacy network, said there is a lot of work to do to repair the government's relationship with First Nations.
But he called Harper's overture "a good first step."
Spence has been subsisting mainly on fish broth since Dec. 11, living in a tent on frigid Victoria Island on the Ottawa River, just upstream from Parliament Hill.
"She's well, but you can tell her body is weak," said her spokesman, Danny Metatawabin.
He said Spence is showing clear signs of fatigue but she is determined to hold to the hunger strike until she actually gets to see the prime minister.
Grand Chief Stan Louttit said a one-shot meeting between the two sides last year accomplished little in the long run. Next week's summit has to mark the beginning of a process, he said.
"I'm hopeful we can make some progress with a commitment to keep that progress moving forward," he said.
"We're looking for better results this time around."