Misguided hunger strike is manufacturing dissent – by Peter Foster (National Post – January 4, 2013)

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The aboriginal plight is the legacy of failed policies past, and of resistance from native leaders to changes in accountability, transparency, education and property rights that would inevitably undermine their own power

Nobody would deny the desperate conditions on many native reserves. Most Canadians are genuinely concerned and frustrated at how little improvement has been brought by the billions spent. However, to imagine that problems of poverty, ill health and poor education are best addressed — let alone solved — by histrionic threats, social-mediated mob scenes or blocked roads or rail lines is dangerous delusion.

Chief Theresa Spence, who was previously best known for declaring states of emergency — arguably rooted in her own mismanagement — at her Attawapiskat reserve, is suddenly being treated as some combination of Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi. Celebrity moths, bleeding hearts and clamberers up the greasy political pole have sought to invest her “hunger strike,” which is now into its fourth week, with noble purpose.

In fact, her initial threat to starve herself to death failing a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston suggested either a bizarre degree of narcissism, or revealed her as a witless puppet. Perhaps both.

Nevertheless, Chief Spence has obviously proved an embarrassment to mainstream native leadership, as has the recently unleashed Idle No More movement, with its dancing, drumming and transport blockades.

On Thursday morning, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo — in what appeared to be an attempt to seize back the “initiative” from Ms. Spence and the Idlers No More — revealed that he had sent an “urgent invitation” to the Prime Minister and the GG to meet with him on Jan. 24, the anniversary of last year’s Crown-First Nations gathering.

Although an urgent invitation obviously comes somewhere down the DEFCON scale from a hunger-strike-backed ultimatum, it is uncertain why the Prime Minister would want to commemorate a meeting that was so obviously a failure.

As for Idle No More, the title is profoundly ironic. One of the main problems for native people is the idleness that comes with living on remote reserves such as Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario. However, the Idle No More movement is not aimed at attracting more jobs. In fact, it opposes the very legal changes — contained in Bill C-45 — that would facilitate development, such as making the leasing of reserve land easier, and loosening draconian environmental regulation (a process started last year with Bill C-38). Thus the movement might more appropriately be named “Idle Some More.”

Chief Spence’s handlers have recently had her invoking the fact that “precious diamonds from my land grace the fingers and necklaces of Hollywood celebrities.” Presumably, her scriptwriters were aiming at dramatic contrast (and perhaps angling for a visit from James Cameron), but in fact development of such resources represents the only route out of dependence (and Attawapiskat has benefitted from the diamond developments to which Chief Spence referred).

For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/01/03/peter-foster-misguided-hunger-strike-is-manufacturing-dissent/