Michaëlle Jean says Theresa Spence should end hunger strike
In an interview with CBC Radio Montreal’s Daybreak, Jean spoke about the Idle No More movement and the living standards in Canada’s aboriginal communities.
“You’re better off alive to carry out this whole struggle,” she said in reference to Spence’s hunger strike, which started on Dec. 11.
Spence, who has been living on a diet of fish broth, vitamins and tea, has insisted she will continue the protest until she gets a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston to discuss “treaty issues.”
In December, Spence said she was “willing to die for my people and the First Nations people.”
Jean said she finds it troubling that so many aboriginal people take their lives because of a sense of powerlessness.
She told CBC’s Daybreak that living conditions in aboriginal communities, such as a lack of fresh drinking water, is “unacceptable.”
“We have a Third World in Canada, and it’s with our aboriginal peoples,” Jean said.
Jean, who is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s special envoy to Haiti, said some of the conditions she has seen in Haiti are similar to situations in Canada’s aboriginal communities.
Canadian Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan responded to Jean’s comments in a written statement today.
“We recognize that more work needs to be done,” he said. “Last Friday’s meeting was a positive step in that direction.”
The minister cited a number of development projects accomplished by the federal government since 2006, including 30 new schools, more than 10,000 new homes, and investment in safe drinking water systems.
Jean agreed there have been some encouraging initiatives, but said she’s hoping that a “real dialogue” will come to fruition.
She said Canadians must to be more aware of the situation. Instead of waiting for people to start protesting in the streets, the public must be more proactive.
“It’s not an aboriginal issue, it’s a Canadian issue,” she said.
As for the Idle No More movement, Jean said she was discouraged to see the situation become so chaotic.
She said the priority should be unity, not only among First Nations people, but also between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people living in Canada.