Inuk artist Billy Gauthier has not eaten since October 13th. As of today, that will mark 11 days sans food. At five-foot-five and 140 pounds, he’s walking a fine line.
Nearly two weeks ago Gauthier was known as an acclaimed Inuk sculpture in Labrador, but now he’s an activist making quite the major stand on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project as the face of the #MakeMuskratRight movement.
Children protesters stand with Billy Gauthier, 3rd from right, as he enters day four of his hunger strike. He wants all vegetation cleared pic.twitter.com/VVno0KLStl
— Katie Breen (@KatieBreenNL) October 17, 2016
Gauthier said he’s willing to give up his own life in order to protect other Labradorians and the Churchill River.
“I am only one life, and I am willing to give up mine,” he told CBC’s Here and Now.
“Physically, I’m feeling okay. I’m feeling strong, I’m feeling confident, and I’m feeling right. The only nourishment that is going into my body right now is water.”
“I don’t know how far it will go. But I can guarantee if we start dying off, this here project will not happen.”
The $11.4 billion project is claiming to be a positive one, aiming to bring over 800 megawatts of renewable energy to the island of Newfoundland. But the the project needs to start with flooding a large area of land along the Churchill River move ahead with the plan.
— Kristy Sheppard (@klsheppard) June 22, 2016
The Newfoundland and Labrador provincial energy company, Nalcor, are constructing a Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Project in Labrador. A dam has already been constructed for the planned Muskrat Falls flooding, which could begin at any moment — and that’s something Gauthier says he cannot allow.
— NunatuKavut (@NunatuKavut) June 27, 2016
According to reports, initial Nalcor studies showed there would only be minimal impact to fish and wildlife, but a study conducted by a researcher at Harvard University claimed otherwise.
Dr. Elsie Sunderland’s study brings to light the concern over methylmercury, a neurotoxin, that would exude from the soil into the water of the Churchill River, which would poison the Inuit and Innu country food, such as fish and other wildlife downstream. The company has to flood the area before November strikes in order to protect their investment, but Billy is not backing down.
“It’s all or nothing,” he says. “We’ve made ourselves very clear, they must remove all of the organic material in order to protect our waters. We are not backing down. We are right and we will win. I am willing to give up my life if it will expose to the world just how sick this company really is.”
— Tom Fennario (@tfennario) October 22, 2016
On October 19, over 100 people barricaded the gates of the dam construction site to stop construction from starting.
On October 22nd, the tenth day of his hunger strike Gauthier brought his message to Ottawa in an effort to bring greater public attention to the concerns. There is another rally planned for Parliament Hill later this week.
— Tom Fennario (@tfennario) October 21, 2016
What do you think of the extreme measures taken to protest the detrimental project?
Main image courtesy of Tom Fennario via Twitter.