First published by CWILA: Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (6 January 2013), http://cwila.com/open-letter-regarding-the-announcement-of-11-january-talks-with-the-afn/. I was one of 236 co-signatories, from Maleea Acker to Jan Zwicky.
CWILA: Canadian Women in the Literary Arts
6 January 2013
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), alongside other Canadian artists, editors and academics, congratulates you and the Hon. John Duncan on your announcement Friday that you intend to meet on January 11th with First Nations delegations regarding issues that have been raised by the Idle No More movement. These issues are the focus of Chief Theresa Spence's continuing hunger strike, about which we wrote to you in an open letter just prior to your announcement.
We continue to oppose the ways in which Bill C-45 absolves the federal government of its former responsibilities to consult with First Nations over land and water rights within reserve lands. We also oppose the way in which Bill C-45 and other recent legislation erases indigenous rights formerly protected by treaty. These changes to old treaty laws affect everything from Indigenous ownership of reserve lands to education to safe drinking water and open the way to further erosion of First Nations cultures and deeper impoverishment of people living on reserves. CSWILA urges you to rectify the appearance created by recent legislation that your government is willing to defer to corporate interests in mining, logging and oil extraction at almost any cost, including the transgression of legal and moral rights that reside in the concept of Aboriginal jurisdiction.
We continue to believe that it would be gracious of you to meet personally with Chief Spence, informally and off the record, as a prelude to the formal contributions she will be making during your talks with the delegations.
CWILA stands in fervent support of First Nations' constitutionally protected rights to their lands and waters. We are steadfast in our solidarity with the founders of Idle No More, and with other indigenous women who have called upon us to support them in this struggle.
We thank you for scheduling talks, and urge you, in the strongest terms, to use them as an opportunity to amend current legislation in a spirit of principled cooperation between your government and the First Nations of this country.