December 26, 2012
Dear CWILA members,
On December 10th, Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat left her home in James Bay to travel to Victoria Island in Ottawa where she began a hunger strike intended to draw attention to the broken relationship between First Nations people and the Canadian government. Chief Spence is living in a tipi a mere four kilometers from 24 Sussex Drive. She has been on hunger strike for sixteen days and counting, and she will not eat until Prime Minister Harper and the Governor General agree to meet with her to discuss indigenous rights.
Chief Spence’s act of courageous leadership has been a powerful catalyst for Idle No More, a grassroots movement begun by Saskatchewan activists Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdams, Jessica Gordon, and Sheelah McLean. Idle No More was initially aimed at addressing omnibus Bill C-45, which affects treaty rights, the environment (crucial changes to the 130 year-old Navigable Waters Act in particular), and labor in Canada. Since then, Idle No More has gathered Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples together across the country in solidarity against the Harper government’s ongoing and systematic disregard for the rights of our indigenous peoples and the land we all depend upon.
CWILA’s mandate is to bring people who share feminist values together. We believe that Idle No More is a rallying cry for feminists in Canada, and we feel personally compelled to answer that call. As Am Johal has recently written, “while there has been some support from the labour movement, environmental movement and the student movement, it has not yet been loud enough. There is so much at stake here, that the non-indigenous community must speak louder and support the demands of Chief Spence and Idle No More.”
All along we have wanted CWILA to be a platform for generative action and community building, and with these intentions in mind, we invite you to consider lending your support to Idle No More in solidarity with our nation’s indigenous peoples, especially Chief Theresa Spence. We feel strongly that this is an important moment for all Canadians.
If you would like to lend your support and voice to Idle No More please consider writing a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to meet with Chief Spence immediately. We have attached email addresses and postal addresses for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Hon. John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. You might also consider writing to the editor of your local paper, your friends, family and colleagues.
CWILA began as a collective of writers who believe that words have power, and who support the struggle for gender equity in Canada’s literary landscape, but that fight is one small component of a much larger struggle for justice in this country. We believe, as writers and feminists, that we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples who are fighting for their rights, environmental protection and for democracy in general. By writing letters in support of Chief Spence, we honour the brave indigenous women who have asked for our support. Let’s not, in this moment, lose hope in the power of words.
Our country is at a turning point. Now is the time for us to lend our voices in solidarity and friendship.
Erin Wunker and Gillian Jerome
PS: We are sure that many of you are very busy during this holiday season. If you would like a template of a letter written to Harper and Duncan by Gillian Jerome or Erin Wunker, please send either of us a note at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington St
Ottawa, On K1A 0A2
Hon. John Duncan
600 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Academics in Solidarity:
Artists in Solidarity: