Tory MP slams Spence's appeal to UN

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is seen signing the Declaration to Commitment in Ottawa Jan. 24...

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is seen signing the Declaration to Commitment in Ottawa Jan. 24 2013. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and Raymond Robinson have wrapped up their hunger strike. Andre Forget/QMI Agency

KRISTY KIRKUP, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 10:12 PM ET

OTTAWA - Conservative MP Larry Miller says the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has "no right" to say anything about an urgent appeal put forward by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

The backbench MP, who has called the UN a "corrupt organization", says Spence's move to appeal to the international community for help on Canada's First Nations file is a move to divert attention away from her northern Ontario reserve.

Spence launched a high-profile 43-day personal protest this winter in Ottawa to call for a joint conversation between First Nations, the feds, and the Crown.

"This is nothing but another project of hers to divert attention away from what she and maybe some other officials in her band have done," Miller said. "Her people suffered because of some of the things she did. It isn't from a lack of money from the federal government, the provincial government or even the mine that's in that part of the country."

Miller's government was mum on Spence's specific appeal on Thursday. A spokesman for newly-minted Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt only touted the government's commitment to effecting change for First Nations communities.

Spence, the International Indian Treaty Council and the Mushkegowuk People of Attawapiskat First Nation have filed an "urgent action" submission with the CERD, which was set to be reviewed Tuesday in Geneva. Discussions are taking place behind closed doors.

Russia chairs the UN committee. The vice-chairs include Algeria, Guatemala and India.

Spence's appeal includes six recommendations to the Canadian government, including a call for an "immediate meeting" with the Crown, federal government, provincial governments and all First Nations to discuss treaties. It also asks for Canada to express a commitment towards "resource sharing" and to probe two government budget bills.

The budget legislation was at the heart of the recent Idle No More movement. It's currently being challenged in court by two Alberta First Nations over allegations of a lack of consultation.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents the Ontario riding which encompasses Attawapiskat, said many First Nations have been looking to the United Nations.

"The fact is that Canada has a very bad reputation internationally right now in terms of its failure to meet basic First Nation rights," Angus said. "Conservatives ... don't really understand the role of the United Nations ... Whatever the UN committee decides, well, I think we should look at it ... it's either going to be appropriate or not appropriate."

Kristy.Kirkup@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @kkirkup


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