News Canada

Chief Theresa Spence changes her mind, won't attend meeting with PM

By Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

OTTAWA - 

Protesting Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has written the Queen to ask if she can get Gov. Gen. David Johnston to attend a high-profile meeting between aboriginal leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Spence also said she will boycott Friday's working meeting organized by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) because Johnston is not planning to attend. "We have sent a letter to Buckingham Palace," Spence said in a statement. "I will not be attending Friday's meeting with the prime minister, as the governor general's attendance is integral when discussing inherent and treaty rights."

A spokesman for Spence said the chief would attend the meeting last week but it was unknown if Johnston would attend.

The chief has refused to speak to reporters this week following the release of a critical audit on Monday.

The audit, which reviewed financials from 2005 to 2011, was completed by outside firm Deloitte for the feds and suggested there is a missing paper trail for millions in reserve spending.

Spence became the chief of Attawapiskat in 2010, but served as deputy chief starting in 2007.

Spence, who has been camped out at Ottawa's Victoria Island since Dec. 11, has long said she wanted to see a meeting between the feds and a representative of the Crown, which originally drafted treaties with First Nations.

Spence says she has been sustaining a diet of fish broth and herbal teas and two elders have also been on a fast to support her efforts.

The Aboriginal Peoples' Television Network reported Wednesday Spence has now crafted a will because she is willing to die for her cause.

The AFN has not released who will attend Friday's "working meeting" but the guest list will include select group of leaders determined by the national advocacy organization.

The AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo was slated to hold a press conference on Wednesday but it was abruptly cancelled and delayed until Thursday. The organization said it is carving out "benchmarks" for Friday.

Spence and other First Nations protesters, who have been engaged in ongoing demonstrations under the banner Idle No More, have recently raised concerns about government legislation including the passage of the second omnibus budget bill.

Mikisew Cree First Nation and Frog Lake First Nation believe measures contained in the bill remove environmental safeguards and claim the government legally failed to consult with aboriginal leaders when planning the legislation.

Kristy.Kirkup@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @kkirkup

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