Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence might soon need PR help

Tease the day: Criticism of the hunger-striking chief mounts

CP/Sean Kilpatrick

Theresa Spence had a long run as a peaceful warrior who, for the most part, escaped criticism. Spence, the Attawapiskat First Nation chief, spent several weeks in a Victoria Island teepee before most news media looked at her with a critical eye. But that’s now eroding. Ezra Levant and the Sun News Network, which led the charge against Spence with unapologetic glee last week, questions almost everything about Spence’s protest: Is she responsible, at least in part, for some of the deplorable conditions in Attawapiskat? Does she have the best interests of her people in mind? Is she even on a hunger strike? Spence’s supporters dismissed many of Sun Media’s claims, and Levant’s reports were treated as inflammatory on Twitter and the like. But other outlets are hinting at similar, if more tempered, criticism.

Inside the National Post’s coverage of the latest developments on Victoria Island, the newspaper refers to Spence’s action as a liquid diet—a change in tune from hunger strike, to be sure. The Toronto Star fronts a story about an apparently damning independent audit completed in the wake of last year’s housing crisis in Attawapiskat. It sounds like it’s not the feds who will be criticized, but the band’s leadership—including, of course, Spence. (UPDATE: La Presse and CBC News has some of the audit’s details, including claims that “there is little or no documentation for millions of dollars spent by the band”.)

Through it all, she’s still gaining new allies. Among her visitors over the weekend was former prime minister Paul Martin, the one-time promoter of the Kelowna Accord, a sweeping series of commitments to Aboriginal Canadians that the Conservatives scrapped when they took office in 2006. But Martin’s kind words might not be enough. If reporters build on reports critical of Spence, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t happen, she’ll need more than powerful visitors to save her reputation. She could soon require the services of a public relations professional.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the conclusion of the NHL players’ lockout. The National Post fronts the return of elite hockey to North America. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the absence of victories in the NHL lockout. The Ottawa Citizen leads with, of course, the end of the NHL lockout. iPolitics fronts a profile of Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Sandra Pupatello. leads with massive American health bills levied on two Canadians who bought travel insurance before leaving for the United States. National Newswatch showcases a CBC News story about the removal of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue’s controversial election spending records from the Elections Canada website.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Corcan. The suite of jobs available to Canadian inmates doesn’t adequately prepare them for the workforce when they’re released from prison, according to a departmental analysis. 2. EI rules. Canadians who draw employment insurance now have to deal with new, stricter rules that the government hopes will help unemployed Canadians find jobs more quickly.
3. 150th birthday. Canadian astronaut Julie Payette hopes her country uses its sesquicentennial celebrations to look deep into the future—at Canada’s 300th birthday in 2167. 4. Google flu. Doctors across Canada are using Google’s tracking of influenza search trends in North America to track the ailment’s spread, including outbreaks, from region to region.

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