Fishers Hunger Strike
October 14, 1999
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It took a week long hunger strike in Steveston, British Columbia, and in Merritt, B.C. to bring the Federal government to the bargaining table. Dan Edwards and his daughter Danielle, were determined to make the government listen to their demands for relief following the collapse of the Sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River.
"We said we would do a hunger strike here because that accents what's actually going on here with the federal government and the situation of starving all of us out here. Although it's a hard personal decision to make and it's not an easy thing to do, we felt that it focuses the situation"
"People really are at the end of their rope. They have no money left. They are looking at a winter with nothing and they are about to lose what little they might have left."
Vivian Narcisse, a native fisher in the interior village of Merritt where she and her ancestors have fished for generations, joined the hunger strike to help her people and the commercial fishers.
"A lot of their needs are not going to be met and my heart goes out to everyone. A lot of coastal communities that were there, along the Fraser river at the end of that meeting I cried. I felt a lot of the pain that the people are going to have. And the pain here in this valley, a lot of the elders here don't have fish in their freezers and this is the reason why I'm on my hunger strike."
The United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union -CAW, a member of the Fraser River Sockeye Crisis Committee, has played a key role in the fight to get both the provincial and the federal governments to recognize the collapse of the Sockeye fishery as a natural disaster, and to provide compensation to the affected fishers. Its members are frustrated by the governments' delays.
"It's ten weeks to Christmas, let's get with the program here. The people have no money. They can't draw unemployment insurance. They can't get welfare. They are right up against it and politicians are bickering and playing technical games here. It's just a ridiculous situation."
After eight days the hunger strike was temporarily suspended on Friday October 8th when the federal government agreed to meet with the Sockeye Salmon Crisis Committee.
CAW "Fighting Back Makes a Difference."