Canadian natives vow to battle on as chief ends fast

Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:52pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian native leaders vowed on Thursday to carry on the fight for better living conditions as a chief at the center of a simmering aboriginal protest movement ended her six-week hunger strike.

Chief Theresa Spence, from a remote northern Ontario reserve, called off the strike after holding negotiations with other aboriginal leaders and opposition lawmakers in Canadian Parliament.

"There was an awakening here," Danny Metatawabin, a spokesman for Spence, told a news conference in Ottawa. "Now we have to move forward."

"The fight does not end because the hunger strike ends."

Spence, who survived on a liquid diet while living in a tepee, was taken to a hospital for observation on Thursday and released.

"Always remember that we're here together and here for our people ... especially our youth," Spence told a crowd after leaving the hospital, according to CTV News.

She traveled to Ottawa from her remote northern Canadian reserve in December and set up camp on an island in the Ottawa River in view of Parliament to raise awareness about poor living conditions for natives across Canada.

She was a flashpoint in a boisterous Canadian aboriginal protest movement called "Idle No More." It began with four women in the province of Saskatchewan turning to Twitter and other social networks in a bid to rally North American natives.

They were protesting legislation by Canada's Conservative government that they say promotes industry while reducing environmental protection for lakes and rivers on their lands.   Continued...

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence (C) takes part in an event in her honour after ending her six-week hunger strike in Ottawa January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie