Joint Statement Supporting Chief Spence and Idle No More



The following statement is in support for Chief Theresa Spence who continues her hunger strike until Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with her, and the Idle No More movement, from 24 organizations throughout Canada.

Indigenous and human rights organizations stand in solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence in her appeal for full respect for Aboriginal and Treaty rights by the government of Canada. There is an urgent need for Canada to demonstrate genuine respect and long-term commitment, initiated by a meeting between First Nations’ leadership, the Prime Minister and the Governor General.

Full honor and implementation of Indigenous Peoples' treaties are crucial to the evolution of Canada and the principle of federalism. Cooperative and harmonious relations cannot be achieved by devaluing treaties or by unilateral government actions.

We firmly support grassroots actions of the Idle No More movement. It has put the spotlight on federal policy and legislative agendas that are trampling the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples affirmed in domestic and international law.

Human rights – not colonialism

In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada highlighted "the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and ... higher levels of incarceration."

Canada must abandon outdated, discriminatory approaches from the colonial era, especially in relation to Indigenous Peoples' lands, territories and resources. What is urgently required is a principled framework consistent with international human rights law.

Currently countless amendments and laws are being adopted that undermine Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, including treaty rights. These legislative measures were developed with little or no consultation with aboriginal peoples and without their consent. Such actions erode democracy, the rule of law and integrity of Parliament.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights and related government duties are an integral part of Canada’s Constitution. They are affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The government should address this grievous situation in good faith. Justice, peace and reconciliation remain crucial objectives.

The omnibus budget bill C-45 introduced far-reaching changes. Amendments include changes to complex land provisions in the Indian Act that compound existing problems. It also re-writes environmental laws, including Navigable Waters Protection Act, Fisheries Act and Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, which were used to promote and protect a sustainable environment, clean water and healthy oceans. The integrity of the environment is being assaulted, to the detriment of present and future generations.

Canada is estimated to contain nearly 32,000 major lakes and more than 2.25 million rivers. Yet a new Navigation Protection Act reduces federal environmental oversight and covers only 3 oceans, 97 lakes, and portions of 62 rivers. Certain key rivers in British Columbia along the path of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are not included.

Resource development projects on traditional lands of Indigenous Peoples will be much less likely to be subject to rigorous public environmental impact assessment. These changes are on top of cutbacks on environmental safeguards already passed in the previous omnibus budget bill C-38. As concluded by the David Suzuki Foundation: "In reality, amendments to environmental laws account for about half of the 452-page bill. These amendments will weaken Canada’s capacity for environmental governance, threatening our land, climate and water."

International human rights standards require that decisions affecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples be made with their full and effective participation. In the face of very serious issues concerning lands and resources of Indigenous Peoples, the appropriate standard is free, prior and informed consent.

Canada’s Supreme Court has said that the "Crown ... cannot cavalierly run roughshod over aboriginal interests." There must be "reconciliation" between the power of the state and the pre-existing sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. "In all its dealings with aboriginal peoples ... the Crown must act honorably. Nothing less is required."

It is tragic that a hunger strike and Canada-wide protests are necessary, in order for Indigenous Peoples to bring attention to violations of their dignity, treaties and human rights. Our organizations strongly support human rights education. We urge all Canadians to engage with Indigenous Peoples, to help educate others, and to support the current movement of awareness raising and ensuring vital reforms.

For more information on events in your area, visit

Supported by: Amnistie Internationale Canada, Amnesty International Canada, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Assembly of First Nations, Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador/Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et du Labrador, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Chiefs of Ontario, Dene Nation/AFN Regional Office (NWT), Earthroots, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, First Nations Summit, First Peoples Human Rights Coalition, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Haudenosaunee of Kanehsatake, IKANAWTIKET, Indigenous World Association, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council, MiningWatch Canada, National Association of Friendship Centres, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

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Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Thank you.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
The $9 billion given to Indian Band Governments (or at least 2/3s ($6 billion) is removed by the North West Company at a rate of $1 billion a year with a freight subsidy of $80 million on top. The are the only store on the reserves in Canada and they add a monopoly premium on the goods they sell and they brag about it in their "Investors File" on their website. Dr. Cindy Blackstock mentions them in her talks but offers no solution. I have not heard anyone mention this reality during this Idle No More movement and we should address all the factors causing our poverty including the agents who add to it. Attawapiskat has a Northern Store and its role has been ignored and in spite of doing $1 billion of business on Indian reserves did not offer any relief to Chief Spence. Please consider the following about the North West Company and its various brands including Northern Stores and North Mart to name a couple: They bought out the HBC about 20 years ago including their history back to 1668, and have now broken the $1 Billion in sales mark to Indians in Canada including Attawapiskat and they clear millions while paying their CEO $5 million per year plus pension and a whopping severance package when he goes. They have so much money they are now providing operating loans to First Nations governments for 25% and more interest rates. No wonder Bands are running short of money and I am sure their Native employees benefits packaging is not as lucrative as management's. It will cost $800 million to buy them out and Canada is holding $1.5 billion in trust which our development corporations can borrow and repay quickly. PS. The CPR purchased the HBC from the Royal Family and then sold all Treaty 11 lands to Britain for the same price, £300,000 plus 20% of the land mass of millions of square miles. This was a quick flip orchestrated by "Sir John A. McDonald" who was the Conservative Prime Minister of the Canada plus the legal council for the CPR and their new acquisition, the HBC. This was all concluded in 1868 but was not announced until the Metis Rebellion was over. It was announced in 1870, 3 years after Confederation and Canada's Trust obligations for Indians in 1867 and at section 91(24) of the BNA Act, and 1 year before the first of the 11 Treaties were signed in 1871 at Lower Fort Gary in Manitoba. The North West Company or Northern Stores, North Mart and the various names it uses to market monopoly goods into Indian lands. So, this country has a violent relationship with Indians and which continues to be practiced today and actively supported by the North West company. It was their lobbying which put cash into the communities in the late 1960's much to my chagrin because I thought it was the lobbying of NIB and the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood that did it, but it was the Hudson's Bay Company because the Fur Trade was dead or dying and they needed to get cash into Indian hands so Indians can go The Bay and spend their money (Pensions, Child Benefits, Salaries for teachers, nurses, band staff, etc, etc!!! Money they still spend without thinking they could own the company and benefit from the massive monopoly profits. I think this may be the time to begin this discussion because this is the company that has done so much damage to Indians and actually stole and made treaties before the Indians did. Treaties when the federal government was already a Trustee for Indians as per section 91(24), It failed to fulfil its Trustee obligations and was in fact in a conflict of interest and was involved in a conspiracy to steal Indian lands and to exterminate Indians as it had been trying to do for decades and even now. Please let me know if this is of interest to you on a scale of 1 to 10 or whether this is not the time yet.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I hail from the the same James'Bay territory has the immortialised chief of hunger immolation...and I personally do not support this type of attention gratifying fiasco for poltitical notice...there are people in other parts of the world are STARVING( and here in canada and the usa,there dying of self-inflicted OBESITY)!Shameful!

Submitted by MARIE VERMILLION on