Archive for December 27th, 2012

Dispatch from the teepee

- December 27th, 2012

Over at Maclean’s blog Colby Cosh asks a bunch of interesting questions about Theresa Spence’s hunger-strike (ish) protest. I was inside Spence’s teepee yesterday, and I have a few answers.


The man to Spence’s immediate right is her spokesman, she told me. I do not know quite who he is. He did not speak, did not interfere with my interview with Spence.

The person in charge of Spence’s twitter account is a pleasant young man who is very much into cameras and social media. There are several people in Spence’s entourage, and most of them are security (against whom or what I don’t really know – there are no threats around her teepee and while media types are annoying, they’re not very dangerous).

I am not a doctor or a nurse so take this with the appropriate grain of salt. She told me she was feeling fine, and indeed she looked fine to me. But she did appear tired. I don’t know if that’s real or not, and if yes whether it’s related to her liquid diet (her hunger strike consists of drinking tea and fish broth).

Now obviously I’m not doing surveillance on the place and cannot say for sure whether she’s really living in that teepee and whether she’s fasting. But I can tell you the teepee is real – it’s just a big tent. It’s not insulated, the “door” is a flap that lets the cold air in, it’s right on the ground, with a sparse covering of evergreen. There are two beds, a bench, and a wood stove. The beds (one of which I sat on) look like they’d been slept in. There is one porta-potty outside.

I’m not a fan of this protest one bit. I find it annoying, unproductive, and slightly childish. But if – if – it is true that she is living in that teepee and not eating solid foods, I’m pretty sure it’s unpleasant.

A lack-of-love triangle

- December 27th, 2012

Duncan tries again to meet Chief Spence

- December 27th, 2012

I feel like Dear Abby – at some point someone will have to tell Duncan that she’s just not interested

OTTAWA – Since she agreed to meet with Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau, Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan is hoping hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence will reconsider his offer to meet with him.

Duncan’s first offer on Christmas was instead met with silence. A day later, Spence welcomed Trudeau to her Victoria Island teepee for a 45-minute meeting.

This prompted Duncan to write another letter to Spence.

“It is my understanding that you met today with a member of Parliament,” he wrote. “Given your willingness to accept meetings now I am hoping that you will reconsider my offer, as minister of the Crown, to meet or speak with you by phone to discuss the issues you have raised publicly.”

Spence is now in the third week of her protest, which includes restricting her food intake to tea and fish broth. On Christmas Eve, Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, himself an Aboriginal, tried to pay a visit to Chief Spence but was turned down.

Asked why she’d agree to meet with Trudeau but not with Duncan or Brazeau, Chief Spence said: “Trudeau is a person who’s there for the youth, and he’s seen by the youth as a leader today.” She said she was not asking for a private meeting with the prime minister. “I want the [First Nations] leaders to sit at a table with the prime minister, and the Crown, both levels of government,” she told QMI Agency in an exclusive interview after her meeting with Trudeau.