Some people may criticize Prime Minister Stephen Harper for giving in to the demands of hunger striker Theresa Spence. But most Canadians will agree Harper acted humanely by agreeing to a meeting Friday with First Nations leaders that is expected to result in Spence ending her
Spence, chief of the impoverished Attawapiskat band in Ontario, started her hunger strike Dec. 11. She said she wouldn't eat until Harper and Gov. Gen David Johnston agreed to meet with her.
Negotiations between First Nations leaders and the government have
resulted in Friday's meeting likely being good enough to meet her conditions.
The government didn't respond to the hunger strike demands at first, but with Spence's health deteriorating and the Idle No More movement growing in strength and militancy, native grievances have become an issue the Harperites must address.
The government shouldn't give in on every protest, but it can't be so obstinate as to let a prominent native chief die on its watch.
Had Spence starved herself to death or done serious health damage to herself, a good share of the blame would have rightly gone to the Harper government. All she wanted was a meeting. That's really not a lot to ask.
To save a little face, the government is spinning Friday's meeting as a continuation of ongoing talks.
But most importantly, they are doing something to save Spence's life.
Hunger strikes can be terrible things for any government with a conscience.
Back in 1981, 10 Northern Irish prisoners starved themselves to death. The British government played hardball in public, but documents released years later showed even the tough-
as-nails government of Margaret Thatcher was torn up by the dispute.
Spence may be a thorn in the government's side, but she's no enemy of the state as some of the Irish hunger strikers were considered to be.
Her case warrants compassion.
It's nice to see the Harper government has some of that.
- City Editor Pat Bulmer