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Theresa Spence Wednesday night officially ended her six-week-old protest, which saw her subsisting on a liquid-only diet. It followed intense behind-the-scenes bargaining that allowed her to save face in the eyes of the government, her people and the general public.
Ms. Spence did a great job of publicizing her issue, but as a politician, she leaves much to be desired. With Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo also announcing Wednesday he will return to work Thursday after a medical leave, future negotiations will hopefully be a little less chaotic, and a little more productive.
From the beginning, it has been clear that Ms. Spence was in way over her head. When the Attawapiskat Chief first set up camp on an island in the Ottawa River on Dec. 11, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was faced with a serious dilemma: Meeting personally with Ms. Spence would have set a dangerous precedent, and could have led to every Canadian who has a grievance with the federal government (there are many) threatening to kill themselves, should they not get the ear of the prime minister. On the other hand, if he let her die, he would forever be known as the prime minister who was too stubborn to save a life.
Neither was a good option for Mr. Harper, who expertly organized a meeting that included representatives of the AFN and other aboriginal leaders.
At this point, Ms. Spence should have declared victory and let the more-experienced politicians in the AFN take the torch. Instead, she called on chiefs to boycott the meeting, and ended up driving a wedge between Mr. Atleo and other AFN chiefs.
The rationale for continuing her protest past the Jan. 11 meeting between Mr. Harper and aboriginal leaders was ostensibly because Governor-General David Johnston would not attend. Even Mr. Johnston’s agreement to a separate meeting with aboriginals was not good enough for Ms. Spence, whose new-found power clearly got to her head.
Messrs. Harper and Johnston both knew the Governor-General had no place at a policy meeting, despite the myth among many aboriginals that because the treaties were negotiated between First Nations and the Crown, future dealings must therefore be held with the Queen’s representative.
For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/01/24/jesse-kline-declaration-lets-spence-save-face-end-protest-after-failing-to-secure-meeting-with-pm-and-governor-general/