APTN National News
As occupiers sit in Nalcor’s offices thousands of kilometres away in Labrador, about 100 people held a rally at Ottawa’s human rights monument in support of Billy Gauthier, and the make Muskrat Falls right movement.
Gauthier is the Inuk artist who is currently on a hunger strike, consuming water only, in an effort to stop flooding associated with the Muskrat Falls dam project that studies show will poison the land downstream from the project.
“If the land and the water are our mother then all of us are brothers and sisters? Gauthier, with shaky legs, asked his supporters. “We can’t forget that – it will only bring us closer and it’s only going to make us fight for what’s right and I guarantee we’ll keep going.”
Gauthier has been joined on the hunger strike by Delilah Saunders and Jerry Kohlmeister who are not eating, but consuming broth.
Saunders said living off the land was important growing up.
“The three of us agreed, we are willing to put our lives on the line because if this goes through it will affect so many more people,” said Saunders. “I want to have a family some day and go ice fishing.”
Kohlmeister thanked everyone who came out – then broke down in tears during his speech.
“I have a beautiful two year old daughter and I decided to join these people on the hunger strike for her,” he said. “I want her to grow up like I did and live off the land. This means so much to so many people,” he said.
Gauthier said he has lost about eight kilograms since beginning his hunger strike nine days ago.
He and hundreds of Innu and Inuit in Labrador are concerned about the planned flooding of 11 square kilometres of land for the reservoir for the $11.4 billion Muskrat Falls dam.
Studies have shown that the toxin methylmercury will be released when the water mixes with the vegetation and topsoil in the reservoir. That toxin will flow downstream to where Innu and Inuit hunt and fish. To mitigate the risks, they are asking that all vegetation and top soil be removed prior to flooding.
The Ottawa rally ran in tandem with rallies in Toronto, Halifax and St. John’s.
There is another rally planned for Parliament Hill later this week.
Yvonne Jones, the Liberal Labrador MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs did not attend.