Chief defends reserve spending, says money goes towards goods, services

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OTTAWA - Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is speaking out for the first time about how her reserve spends government money, saying most of what flows to her isolated James Bay reserve actually gets spent outside the community.

She says the money goes to buy supplies and to pay contractors, consultants and lawyers.

"Most of the funding that we have, it goes back to you, to taxpayers," Spence said Friday prior to a protest march scheduled to descend on Parliament Hill.

She looked frail, her voice was shaky and her speech a bit disjointed as she met briefly with members of the media outside her makeshift encampment on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River.

She's been there for more than a month, subsisting on tea and broth in a campaign to force a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

Despite the insistence of her handlers that there would be no questions, someone on the sidelines demanded loudly that she account for her band's spending.

A government-ordered audit, leaked earlier this week, found there is little documentation to back up Attawapiskat's spending.

Spence said she has been the victim of false statements about her reserve's spending.

"It goes out of our reserve," she said. "For example, if there's housing, we have to hire contractors, we have to order the materials from out of town and the shipment, we pay tax on that.

"We hire lawyers ... consultants — that's where the money goes."

Spence is expected to continue her hunger protest, since today's meetings aren't happening according to the terms demanded by the chiefs — on their turf, with both Harper and Johnston together.

Geographic location: OTTAWA, James Bay, Parliament Hill Victoria Island Ottawa River

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