Kristin Henry, others, protest Site C dam at BC Hydro HQ

Henry is five days into hunger strike

Tristan Johnston / The Runner

Kristin Henry and several other protesters sit in and around their tents, waiting for a response from BC Hydro or the B.C. government. Henry herself hasn’t eaten in five days. They’re protesting the proposed Site C dam in the Peace River Valley, which would flood over 100 kilometres of river valley land.

She’s tired, but says her spirits are high, as she’s not protesting alone. “I got a little ‘hangry’ the other day,” she says, laughing.

“I was inspired by other local activists. Actually, they started a bit of a hunger strike a week before I did, unfortunately, due to time commitments, they weren’t able to do a long-term one, but I can. I think it’s an awesome tactic.”

Henry notes that this isn’t her first move against the government, citing her time at the Unist’ot’en camp, and her views against capitalism and colonization.

Henry has been getting a lot of emotional and physical support, saying that many people have brought blankets and water. With her biggest goal being the cessation of construction, she says that she needs media attention and pressure on the government and BC Hydro.

Amy Widmer, a friend and fellow activist who was recently arrested during a sit-in of the National Energy Board hearings for the proposed Trans Mountain expansion at Burnaby Mountain, says that more women are needed for the protest.

“We want to expand, and make this a safe place for women to come and stay. We also recognize that big projects like this lead to increases in domestic violence, they lead to increases in displacement, which means that women are without homes, so we’re calling, ‘Let’s spend this $9-billion on homes, not dams.”

“We’ve been in communications with the Treaty 8, and we’re striking in solidarity with them, for sure.”

According to Henry, the project is a direct infringement of Treaty 8 rights, and land clearing in the area has already started. Treaty 8 was an agreement signed between the Government of Canada and various First Nations of the Lesser Slave Lake Area, and includes provisions which state that the way of life for the people living in the 840,000 square kilometre area should remain unchanged. The meaning of the treaty, and processes surrounding the treaty, remain debated.

“They’re clearcutting forest from seven-to-five every day, they’re putting silt in the river, they’re doing some pretty crazy damage and it just has to stop. And a hunger strike is an aggressive tactic, hopefully it shouldn’t take too long.”

The Site C dam, should it be completed, it estimated to produce 5,100 GWh of electricity per year, which would be enough to power all of Lithuania. The government could also argue that building a dam to export electricity to Alberta would be good for the environment, as Alberta accounts for 47 per cent of Canada’s coal consumption.

Henry notes that much of the land that needs to be cleared is very fertile, enough to “feed a million people for a year.”

Henry is not alone in opposing the dam: she is joined by a number of other organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation and the Wilderness Committee. B.C. Hydro responded to an open letter sent by Suzuki, which stated, “BC Hydro respects the right of all individuals and groups to express their opinions about Site C in a safe and lawful manner. In fact, we have established a safe protest area near one of the gate entrances.”

It also stated, “Site C is an important renewable energy resource in a system that is already almost 98 per cent renewable and clean. Our load forecasts project significant growth in electricity demand over the next 20 years due to population growth and expanding demand in our industrial, commercial and residential customer groups.”

“It’s an unnecessary project that they’re willing to spend $9-billion on. We don’t need the energy, simply,” says Henry. “It’s a $9-billion bill that the taxpayers are going to be footing, essentially to develop LNG and energy uses in Alberta and Asia and for export. Everything we do need is going to be destroyed in the process.”

UPDATE: This article previously incorrectly stated Kristin Henry’s name as Kirsten. The Runner regrets this and the article has been updated to correct the error.

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