UPDATE 1-Hunger strike pressures Canada PM, aboriginal protests spread

Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:13pm EST
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* Hunger strike in 3rd week as "Idle No More" movement grows

* Aboriginal leaders demand top-level meeting

* Protests spread with help of social media

* Flash mobs in dozens of Canadian, U.S. shopping malls

By Louise Egan

OTTAWA, Dec 28 (Reuters) - A Canadian aboriginal chief in the third week of a hunger strike is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to "open his heart" and meet with native leaders angered by his policies as small impromptu protests spread beyond Canada's borders.

Chief Theresa Spence from the remote northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat has been fasting since Dec. 11 and has vowed to continue until Harper commits to talks on a litany of complaints, including new legislation that she says will harm native lands.

"He's a person with a heart but he needs to open his heart. I'm sure he has faith in the Creator himself and for him to delay this, it's very disrespectful, I feel, to not even meet with us," she said in an interview in Ottawa.

Spence is at the center of an unprecedented Canadian aboriginal protest movement called "Idle No More" that began with four women in the province of Saskatchewan raising awareness about the Conservative government's budget legislation passed earlier this month.   Continued...