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Theresa Spence unsatisfied with meeting between Harper, chiefs

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence makes a brief statement on Victoria Island near Parliament Hill Friday January 11, 2013 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence says she plans to continue her hunger strike until there is a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Governor-General and first nations leaders.

In an interview Sunday morning with CTV's Question Period, Ms. Spence said she is unsatisfied with the meeting that took place earlier this month between Mr. Harper and some chiefs, calling it a "working group" when native groups had called for a "nation-to-nation" meeting that would also include Governor-General David Johnston.

"It's important for all the treaty partners to be in that meeting. That includes the Crown," she said. "So [Mr. Johnston] is representing the Crown. He should be there."

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The native chief has been a prominent figure in the Idle No More movement that has galvanized first nations activists as they express frustration over recent federal legislation and demand a better relationship with the government.

Asked about a controversial audit of her community that came to light earlier this month, Ms. Spence said she was "disappointed" when the report became public. The audit found the first nation's leaders had not properly accounted for millions of dollars of spending.

She said the audit should have been a useful tool for both the Aboriginal Affairs department and her community's leadership. During a meeting about the audit last fall, Ms. Spence said she told officials she would work to comply with the recommendations.

"I told them, 'OK, we're going to comply with the recommendations, but we don't want you to use this against us. We want to have a better working relationship,'" she said. "And they said yes, we will. We will promise that we're not going to use it against you. This is why I was really disappointed to see it on the media."

Ms. Spence added that she had asked for a forensic audit but was told that would take too long. She said the auditor was in the community for a total of 10 days to complete a comprehensive audit and did not consult some records that were available.

Holding an eagle feather as she spoke, Ms. Spence appeared tired and weak. She said she has lost more than 30 pounds since she began her hunger strike last month. She has been surviving on tea and broth since that time. "I go day by day, and I'm still waiting for that meeting that needs to take place," she said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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