Spence won’t attend First Nations meeting with Harper because Governor General won’t be there

The meeting on Friday between First Nations leaders and Prime Minister Harper has consumed headlines for weeks, but experts – and Canadians themselves – are doubtful that progress will be made.

Survey results released Wednesday from Angus Reid Public Opinion show 55 per cent of those surveyed think this week’s meeting will be “unsuccessful,” versus 27 per cent who think it will be “successful” and 18 per cent who are unsure.

“I think the problem lies in the fact that we’ve done this before,” said Angus Reid vice-president Mario Canseco. “We had all of the discussions about the Kelowna accord and things were supposed to be different. We were going to have a new relationship with the aboriginal communities, and then nothing came out of it.”

The Kelowna accord was an agreement reached between the federal and provincial governments with aboriginal groups in 2005, which was never implemented after Liberal prime minister Paul Martin was defeated by the Harper Conservatives in the 2006 election.

The lack of optimism over Friday’s meeting is shared by Robert Lovelace, former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation in eastern Ontario and currently a professor of aboriginal studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

“Most (native) people on the street, most people at the grassroots . . . they don’t expect anything to come of this meeting,” he said in an interview with Global News.

The survey comes after about a month of protests from the Idle No More movement, the demonstration of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence in Ottawa of not eating solid food and a damning independent audit of financial management in her northern Ontario reserve.

Steve Courtoreille, chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, who was in Ottawa this week to file a court challenge against recent changes to federal environmental laws, told journalists on Tuesday that “nothing will happen” at Friday’s meeting.

Lovelace went as far as to say the lack of substance from the meeting could set the stage for the dissolution of the Assembly of First Nations.

“In private, (Harper) is going to read the riot act to (Assembly of First Nations National Chief) Shawn Atleo and a few chiefs who he thinks he can bully into getting Indians back in line,” he said.

“(Harper) is going to say, ‘Get in line. We’re going to create some photo ops and we’re going to create an agenda that we can say is the right track to go, and you’re going to settle everything else down,’ ” said Lovelace, addressing hopes that this meeting might put an end to Idle No More protests that have been happening across Canada.

Lovelace said other natives will see through the charade and this could be devastating to the legitimacy of the Assembly of First Nations.

Claude Denis, a professor of political studies at the University of Ottawa, said he expects minimal progress at Friday’s meeting largely because of the fundamentally different visions the government and native leaders have about what progress would look like.

“The gap is bigger than it’s been in 30 years in terms of visions between the government and aboriginal people,” he said.

“The way to economic development (for aboriginals) in the mind of the prime minister is through individual initiative, business, the freeing of the markets, etc., which means, among other things, changing the laws on land ownership and control on reserves and, more broadly, aboriginal land.

“Whereas aboriginal communities, and especially First Nations, are thinking in terms of basically political sovereignty as a prerequisite for them to engage in the kind of economic development that they want to design for themselves, not just follow the same route that right-wing economics would have them take.”

In the survey, 43 per cent of those polled said relations between the federal government and aboriginals have worsened since 2006, when the Tories came to power. That compares to 38 per cent who said relations have stayed the same, seven per cent who said they have improved and 12 per cent who were not sure.

Canseco said the public puts blame on both the federal government and First Nations leaders for the current state of affairs, and this also plays into why they are not optimistic about this week’s meeting.

“(The public is) not really convinced that the federal government will do what it needs to do to assuage concerns, and there’s not a lot of confidence in the way First Nations leaders are going to be dealing with this,” Canseco said. “It’s almost a combination of ‘we don’t like the way either of them are doing things. How can we expect something good to happen when we don’t trust either side?’ ”

The Angus Reid survey was done online with 1,008 respondents between Jan. 7 and 8. The results are considered to accurately reflect the population within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Read it on Global News: Global News | Skepticism surrounds Harper meeting with First Nations

 A group of First Nations people lead by Mohawk elder Sedalia Kawennotas Fazio, right, share traditional song and dance at a teach-in held in Montreal in solidarity with Idle No More on Jan. 7. Photo Corey Pool

Responses to "Skepticism surrounds Harper meeting with First Nations"

  1. Anonymous says:

    yes their is skepticism on both sides.Yes its going to take more then one meeting to resolve these problems.However the first meeting is a step in the right direction.Yes there is lots of media coverage about IDLE NO MORE and there should be more in my opinion.There are surveys out there for this meeting and other things but the fact is it does not really matter.The fact still remain that Canada would not be a Country without the FIRST NATIONS.So why lie why hide that the Treats rights will never die.To Harper and his government and the First Nations lets put this bill c45 on hold for now and sit down at the tables to resolve theses issues step by step.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hey First Nations! Don't give up no matter what!!! You're alive and you're here and so in that, you've already won! Governments live and die, the grow and change, people change, attitudes change, keep going! Keep going!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Please don't give up. We have got to come out & keep fighting for our rights. U.S. ours anyway. I was hoping for good outcome. <<<<<<<<<>~

  4. Anonymous says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  5. Anonymous says:

    we are not gonna lose this battle" we are not gonna let people push us around" we are IDLE NO MORE !!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Not taking the meeting is making the wrong statement. Without opening the lines of communication there will be no communication. Go have the meeting be the bigger person ...don't be idle , put the first foot forward in making a stand!

  7. Anonymous says:

    IDLE NO MORE is the most important thing to occur in the UNITED Native Community since the founding of AIM. Never in history have we been One as we are now. This is our strength. Having said all that, there is every reason to doubt any positive initial outcome from this first meeting, or for many to follow. They think with their wallets, we know from our hearts what is happening in this world.

    These issues will not be resolved over a matter of a few weeks, which is why we MUST STAND FIRM in our Resolve to stay UNITED and speak with one collective NATIVE VOICE!!!

    SiaRose McCoy-Pinello
    currently residing in Las Vegas, NV

  8. Anonymous says:

    That the Nstive People know that many of us stand behind you. May the slippery Eel not be able to progress. Stand tall.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Stand Firm! Don't Give Up The Fight! The Great Spirit Creator Alone Controls Every Outcome In His Time! He Says: My Native People Everywhere, Be Idle No More!!!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Please help these beautiful creatures. The world is watching what you do with this duty and responsibility!

  11. Anonymous says:

    .keep pushing forward. Trust me the Natives in America are supporting Chief Spencer and the fight for our rights through Flash Mobs in public so that every where that we are the word is going to be known, that we as Natives are UNITED and not just one little group, but a whole Nation of Natives. They cant stop us even if they tried. There is no time for games and the IDLE NO MORE MOVEMENT is NOT playing around. We Natives are fighters threw any way that we need to.

    Kory James, ONEIDA NATION..
    currently residing in UTAH NAVAJO REZ

  12. Anonymous says:


    Spence: Mr Harper, I want to meet to talk about our living conditions.
    Mr Harper: (silence)
    Spence: Ok, I will starve myself in protest along with other followers!
    Mr Harper: Ok…I will meet with you.
    Spence: Hmmm…on second thought. I don’t believe your sincerity.


  13. Anonymous says:

    I bet if they found that $104 million dollars in their budget..things would be great! OR if all the tribe made the money the chief does...

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