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Municipal Politics

Hunger Strike Ends, but Old Growth Battle Just Beginning, Say Protesters

Lack of response from government led Nanaimo duo to give up fast after two weeks.

Natasha Simpson 11 Aug 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Natasha Simpson is a freelance journalist in Victoria, B.C. She shares everything she publishes on Twitter @_tashasimpson. When she’s not writing, she works as an investigator for Firefly Consulting.

Two Nanaimo men have ended their hunger strike in protest of old growth logging but vow the fight to change government policy will continue.

James Darling and Robert Fuller ended their strike at a weekend rally after two weeks without food.

Darling, a 35-year-old musician, had said earlier that he wanted to continue the strike for at least three weeks and Fuller had said he was willing to go without food until his health was at risk.

But despite protests at the offices of Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson and Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley with members of Extinction Rebellion Nanaimo and others, the hunger strike failed to bring a government response.

Since the MLAs weren’t responding in a meaningful way, the Nanaimo rally seemed the right time to end the hunger strike, said Fuller, a 61-year-old former forest worker.

Other than a brief Skype conversation with Malcolmson and Routley, Darling and Fuller said they received no response from the provincial government.

“Premier John Horgan and [Forests] Minister Doug Donaldson have completely ignored us, and our MLAs have given us some really lame answers,” Darling said in a media release. The strikers said Malcolmson pointed to trade agreements with China as a reason the province couldn’t take action on old growth logging.

Fuller said the protest achieved other goals, including raising awareness of the destruction of old growth ecosystems. Social media helped them reach people across the country, he said.

“I just feel humbled by all of the support we got,” said Fuller. “We met many new people who share the same goals.”

One of those supporters is Sabina Dennis, an Indigenous woman from Dakelh territory who was on the frontlines of the conflict between the Wet’suwet’en people and Coastal GasLink over an LNG pipeline that would cut through traditional territory.

Fuller said Dennis undertook her own four-day hunger strike in solidarity with their cause, telling the two men that they are “united as land defenders.” She provided continued support in the form of messages and videos, which Fuller says moved him to tears.

“She sent a couple of videos of Elders blessing us. It was one of those moments in your life when you get that tingly all-body feeling. Something that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something... I had a really good cry.”

Darling, Fuller and the rest of Extinction Rebellion Nanaimo aren’t sure what their next steps will be. The group’s goal is still to push Premier Horgan to declare a moratorium on old growth logging.

Until that happens, Fuller said, “We are going to keep fighting.”

“Nothing’s off the books,” he said. “It will be non-violent civil disobedience of some sort.... We did the hunger strike... it’s time to take things to the next level.”  [Tyee]

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