Inspired by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence's ongoing hunger strike, some Brantford residents are joining Canadians in a fasting campaign being held in solidarity with indigenous peoples.
Brant NDP member Marc Laferriere recently launched the online Fast4Change campaign to support the development of a more positive relationship between First Nations peoples and the Government of Canada.
"I don't think it's controversial to say there can be an improvement in the relationship between First Nations and the Government of Canada," Laferriere said. "Something like Fast4Change can be very inclusive for folks that agree with that. A rolling hunger strike where people take 24-hour blocks to fast could create these conversations in communities across the country."
Laferriere said since the online launch more than 50 people – including residents of Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario – have signed up to fast on a day of their choice.
A grassroots campaign called Idle No More has held protests across the country in recent days, following Spence's decision to begin a hunger strike on Dec. 11. The campaign was born, in part, because Spence said she is willing to die if the federal government does not show increased respect for First Nations treaties.
Spence recently began living in a teepee on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River, which is considered traditional native territory. A rally was recently held on Parliament Hill in support of Spence.
Laferriere said the Fast4Change campaign allows everyone to become involved in a conversation about better respecting First Nations peoples.
"I thought about how people can participate in various communities if they couldn't make it to Ottawa," Laferriere said. "It will put conversations out there with people they know, too. We're not asking anybody to fundraise, we just want to spread the word. This is about rights, respect and relationships. What we are looking to do is to raise awareness that there is amazing potential for a better relationship between First Nations and the Government of Canada. It is possible."
Rev. Jon Massimi of Counterpoint Church, an extension of Grace Anglican Church, said he joined the Fast4Change campaign because building relationships with First Nations peoples is not just a "native issue."
"After speaking with (Laferriere) and doing my research, I discovered that this is more than a native issue," Massimi said. "It is one that all Canadians should concern themselves with. I believe the role of government is not just to govern, but to care for and support the most vulnerable in our society. I see our native brothers and sisters being the vulnerable at this time. Some are living in sub-par, third-world development conditions. We can't sit back when there are people in our country living this way."
Visit www.fast4change.com for more information.