For those people hoping Theresa Spence will get out of this hunger strike alive, or simply too weary of all the coverage and wanting it to be over, today’s modest proposal by Assembly of First Nations head Shawn Atleo offers an apparent way out via an olive branch to Stephen Harper: attend a Crown-First Nations summit later this month on the first anniversary of a similar summit held last year.
I say non-proposal because I’m really not sure a second summit will accomplish what a first one didn’t, except insofar as Atleo (1) wants to be seen as presenting a solution that will allow Spence to bow out gracefully and save her life, which certainly isn’t nothing, and (2) wants to see his organization play a major role as mediator in establishing what presumably via this precedent would become a regular annual conference between the Prime Minister and First Nations chiefs. Which again isn’t nothing.
It’s unlikely, as I say, that such a convention will lead to anything significant from this government. If it is unwilling to agree to so much as a face-to-face meeting between the Governor-General and Spence during the pressure of a hunger strike, it seems unlikely that the government will agree to anything more substantial once the pressure of the hunger strike is lifted, either. Still, it offers one of the last gracious ways out for both sides. Harper can agree to a new meeting based on last year’s precedent without being seen to concede to Spence (which he would be, implicitly), and Spence will have accomplished something like the demands that led to this hunger strike. Although Atleo may get most of the credit.
If this offer is rejected, the consesquences became decidedly more uncertain. Already a second aboriginal elder has joined Spence in her hunger strike. The more people get involved, the more complicated the agenda gets, and the more difficult this situation will be to resolve. At that point the Prime Minister’s strategy will presumably be — as it apparently already is — to simply wait out the protesters and hope it’s a flash-in-the-pan like the Occupy Wall Street movement. Assuming she is determined to hold to this course too, such a strategy is likely to end with Spence’s death. That’s an outcome that a responsible government could have foreseen and prevented weeks ago.
Unfortunately, white Canada appears for the most part as uninterested in a resolution to this as Harper himself is, judging from the breathtaking explosion of racist shillitry in the nation’s newspapers. The latest anonymous editorial Postmedia pronouncement downgrades the charges laid against Spence from “terrorism” to mere “blackmail,” which is still silly, and then adds the following:
what must be made clear is that the prime minister of Canada can’t be compelled to respond to the threats of protesters, whether they number in the single digits or the thousands.
Yes, that’s the Postmedia vision of democracy in a nutshell for you: no matter how big a protest gets, no government should ever give in to the demands of the people, never ever.Tweet