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SFU alum broke fast after protesting BC Hydro’s Site C dam for three weeks

Kristin Henry hospitalized 19 days into her hunger strike

SFU alum Kristin Henry (right) sat with Sage Birley as she protested the Site C dam.
SFU alum Kristin Henry (right) sat with Sage Birley as she protested the Site C dam.

SFU alum Kristin Henry, a driving force behind a hunger strike in the wake of BC Hydro’s Site C Dam project, has broken her fast at the insistence of family and doctors according to a Facebook post. She was hospitalized on March 31, which was day 19 of her hunger strike.

Henry is still currently at the hospital, where she might stay until the end of the weekend while she recovers. According to Facebook, she stopped her hunger strike once “she was told that she was at risk of cardiac arrest, and moving forward without food would for sure start doing long term damage to her heart, kidneys and other vital organs.”

She was transferred to St. Paul’s Hospital by ambulance on Wednesday, where medical professionals are urging her to eat something so as to regain her strength. But Birley said that Henry had continued refusing to eat, saying that she is “waiting for test results to come back before she decides to eat or not”. She was also “visibly stressed and frustrated” at the lack of action that has been taken by the Trudeau government as well as BC Hydro.

The Peak spoke with Sage Birley, a farmer from the North Peace Region who has been welcome at the site where Henry set up camp. Throughout the time that Birley has spent on the site, he has become a “media spokesperson”, speaking on behalf of Henry who is still at St. Paul’s Hospital.  

On March 31, Henry was on the 19th day of her hunger strike when her heart rate dropped to 35 bpm. She eventually fainted and was attended to by nurses and other medical personnel that were present at the site.

“[Kristin] is frustrated that Trudeau and BC Hydro are unwilling to sit down and have a serious conversation with all the impacted groups regarding this issue,” Birley said. “She is facing a lot of stress right now.”

Despite the inaction from the federal government and BC Hydro, Birley says that the amount of support that has come about from this hunger strike is “incredible”. Birley, whose family has a long history of farming in the North Peace Region, has great concern for the issue of food security especially in that region. The construction of the dam, Birley says, will have a serious impact on accessibility of food.

To date, the Birley and other members of the camp have collected signatures and have written thousands of letters to the Trudeau government, asking for construction to be discontinued.

At the time of the interview, Birley noted that other movements were taking place, and that earlier on Friday, Green Party leader Elizabeth May had visited the site. With growing support and seeing new faces every day, Birley has hope that this fight for food security is not over.

“[Henry’s efforts] have definitely revitalized the dialogue on this issue,” Birley said. “People have been fighting this issue for 30 years, so it is great to see that all of that effort was not done in vain.”

Even though Henry’s strike is over, the group involved in the hunger strike, who have dubbed themselves “tent city” plan to continue the protest. According to their Facebook post, they “continue to grow and have no intention of ending this campaign. The hunger strike was the start of a beautiful grassroots movement, but it’s certainly not the end.”

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