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Sask. man goes on hunger strike to support 'Idle No More'

Reported by Sarah Stone
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One man in Canoe Lake is saying ‘stop’ to the impending nuclear dumping and passing of Bill C-45, which many say loosens environment protections across the country.

Emil Bell has been on a hunger strike for eight days protesting some of Harper government's policies that are having a negative effect on many people’s land and community.

Adopted daughter of Bell, Donna Larat who resides in Prince Albert, said this isn’t the first time he has gone on a hunger strike to protest conservative policies.

“I talked to him (Sunday night) and he sounded pretty weak already because he’s 72 years old. He did this last year and went for 17 days and it was my niece who begged him to stop because really no one was paying attention then at all,” Larat said.

“He actually sat me and my husband down last Tuesday actually, a week ago because I wasn’t really happy with the last one, mainly because nobody was listening. It frustrated me because nobody was listening and he really means this; he’s not messing round. He seriously plans doing it until the death.”

Since his previous hunger strike Larat said he has found groups that share his feelings including the international social media movement against Omnibus Bill C-45, Idle No More, as well as Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11 in support of the grassroots effort to help achieve change.

“He’s really proud of these women and he’s just all for them and it’s also in support of what Theresa is doing,” Larat said.

“I know elders for many years have been saying it’s going to be the women who are going to take it and will succeed at bringing the change. They will bring the change on and you can see it already because both aboriginal and non-aboriginal are saying, ‘Yeah, enough because this is our country.’”

She said there’s no talking him out of the hunger strike, explaining Bell is from a generation where this is how they got things done.

“He wants more action. He wants more support for the women that are organizing these walks and these rallies. He wants it stopped. He wants the nuclear waste stopped from coming forward. It’s more than just one thing,” Larat continued.

The Idle No More group, which was started by four women from Saskatchewan, has been holding rallies against Bill C-45 that have spread to Saskatchewan and internationally.

Prince Albert organizer Kevin Joseph said he has spoken with Bell about the hunger strike and he believes Canada is going to see more of these extreme actions.

“It’s unfortunate we have to take these drastic measures just to get the common courtesy of our so called prime minister’s ear, which we’re still not getting by the way,” Joseph said.

He went on to explain why this group has stretched as far as London, England and California.

“Why we’re protesting is because we’re not being heard,” Joseph said.

“We’re just trying to educate people on what’s going on with this prime minister and this government is that there’s not a lot of transparency.

Anytime there’s an omnibus bill, like I said, is an attack on democracy,” , adding this Bill never consulted with the people, but was rather rushed through Parliament.

Joseph even went as far as comparing Canada’s government to colonialism.

“What you hear a lot from First Nations community is the word colonialism and when we say that it’s the Canadian government making decision without consulting with us and we’ve gone about 30 years backwards under Mr. Harper,” he said, referring to “us” as all Canadians.

One thing both Joseph and Larat said about the movement is this is not a First Nations issue, but an international issue because the repercussions will reach many around the world.

“It’s not just a First Nations issue, it never was, but we’re the first people to rise up against it,” Joseph said. “This is something that should be uniting us all.”

“It’s not just an aboriginal issue anymore this is our community and we all have to live here,” Larat added.

One of the main topics of discussion will surround the loss of protected bodies of water.

Before Bill C-45 there were around 2.5 million protected waterways and Jospeh said there are now less than 100, with only one lake in Saskatchewan making the protect list—Athabasca.

The group is concerned that with the lack of protection, rampant resource development corporations can now take over many of Prince Albert’s Lakeland areas for bridges, mining, and pipelines.

MP Randy Hoback was not available to comment on the concerns of Idle No More or Emil Joseph.

“We were given this land to protect it and that’s what we’re doing,” Joseph said.

“Sometimes you yell to be heard, so we’re yelling.”

sstone@panow.com

On Twitter: @sarahstone84