Harper promises to take direct interest in First Nations files

First Nations protesters march towards Parliament Hill before the start of a meeting between chiefs...

First Nations protesters march towards Parliament Hill before the start of a meeting between chiefs and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

David Akin and Kristy Kirkup Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 3:37 AM ET

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised he and his top officials will take a more direct interest in First Nations issues, but First Nations leaders remain deeply divided over how they should deal with the federal government.

Harper met with First Nations leaders for more than four hours on Friday afternoon despite attempts by some First Nations chiefs, including protesting Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, to prevent that meeting from taking place.

Spence refused to attend the meeting with Harper unless Gov. Gen. David Johnston was there. Johnston hosted a ceremonial meeting with First Nations leaders at his official residence at Rideau Hall after the meeting with Harper had concluded.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a working meeting with First Nations leaders in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Handout/PMO/Jason Ransom

Spence emerged from the teepee near Parliament Hill where she has been consuming nothing but fish broth, water and tea since mid-December to attend the meeting with Johnston at Rideau Hall.

The Harper-First Nations meeting took place while as many as 3,000 demonstrators marched on Parliament Hill in protest after paying a visit to Spence's camp at Victoria Island.


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