The liquid diet protest is over. She’s on her way back home (I think, I mean, I hope), but is she done? I don’t think so. It finally hit me this morning what it is she’s after: She’s trying to fashion a role for herself as an inspirational leader young people will follow.
Yesterday at the “honouring ceremony” held at a downtown hotel after she’d conveniently missed her own press conference because she was in the hospital, she said this:
Stay together. No matter what hardships go through. No matter what the government tends to do to us to divide us. Always remember that we’re together. And we’re here for our people. Especially the youth. The youth look up at our leaders. It’s really important to remember they’re watching.
She has mentioned young people before. Several times, in fact. She’s also surrounded by them – most of her entourage at the teepee were young men. When I interviewed her on December 26, right after the visit by Justin Trudeau, I asked her why she’d welcomed him after turning down other politicians and she told me this:
Trudeau is a person who’s there for the youth, and he’s seen by the youth as a leader today.
Make no mistake. Theresa Spence is making a conscious effort to position herself as someone who’s seen by the youth as a leader today. That’s why she was fasting (well, you know, not eating solid foods). That’s why she never attempted to make any kind of compromise when the PM agreed to a meeting, and when the GG agreed to a meeting. She stood her ground and kept demanding a meeting she had to know was not going to happen. And when she stopped her protest, she made politicians sign a 13-point declaration that started with a demand for an immediate meeting with the Governor General. And she didn’t answer any questions from the media… How very spiritual.
I wouldn’t make a big deal out of such an attempt to attract young people. Except for one thing – well, two: Aboriginal populations are young (about half of them are under the age of 35), and they’re frustrated and often directionless. Give them a way to channel their frustration and energy, and we might end up in an Uprising kind of scenario. That’s certainly the novel’s storyline.
I suspect the more rational folks with the Assembly of First Nations understand this. That’s one reason why they don’t criticize her much in public. They know the situation with young Aboriginals is volatile, and they understand the potentially disastrous consequences (for Aboriginals especially) of an Uprising-like scenario.
I don’t know that it will work. I don’t know that Theresa Spence is the kind of leader to inspire young people and take them in the wrong direction. But I worry that’s what she’s trying to do, and for that reason we should keep tabs on what she’s doing.