KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – There were some 150 people at today’s anti-clearcut protest at Province House, much more than double the number of people who showed up for last week’s rally.
Momentum is growing, but maddeningly, on this 16th day into Jacob Fillmore’s hunger strike, the stakes are getting much higher as well. 16 days is a very long time not to eat solid food.
Originally it looked like Jacob would not be joining the rally, not because he was resting, but because he was sitting down in protest at the Lands and Forestry offices on Hollis Street, demanding to speak with Minister Chuck Porter. But the minister quickly agreed to meet with Jacob and two other activists on Wednesday, and Jacob made it back to the rally shortly after it began. Not a small feat, considering that throughout the Digby County blockade the then minister of Lands and Forestry steadfastly refused to meet with the forest defenders.
“I didn’t actually think I’d have the opportunity to speak here. I thought that I would be sitting in the Department of Lands and Forestry office pretty well all day until they pulled me out,” Fillmore told the crowd.
The demand is for an immediate moratorium on clearcutting on Crown lands, and the implementation of the Leahey report. But that is not enough, said Fillmore.
“The Leahy report itself is a compromise. Though it does call for the restoration and maintenance of multi-aged forests, it also promotes the use of glyphosate and tree farms. We need to do far better than the Leahy report,” he said.
All nine forest defenders arrested in Digby County were at the rally, and like last week, it was Nina Newington who addressed the crowd on behalf of the group.
Nine people were arrested, but way more people spent days and nights at the encampment blocking access to prime moose habitat in Digby County, Newington pointed out.
“We did so because we care, because we don’t want to stand by and watch this destruction go on and on and on, because we don’t have time to waste and because we don’t have forests to waste,” said Newington.
“We should be celebrating now that the Minister of Lands and Forestry has finally said that he will meet with Jacob tomorrow. But I want to make sure everybody understands just how much that is a bittersweet, teensy tiny victory. As a citizen you shouldn’t have to mobilize this many hundreds of people for this many months, and starve yourself, and sleep out in the cold. Did you know that Jacob was at the Grand Parade on Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, camping overnight? He shouldn’t have to do that,” said Eleanor Wynn, who MC’d the rally.
Several other people spoke at the rally, including NDP MLA and forestry critic Lisa Roberts, who visited the Digby County encampment and met with the forest defenders.
Mi’kmaw Grassroots Grandmother, Water Protector and Water Walker Dorene Bernard said prayers and spoke about the importance of what Jacob is doing.
“I met Jacob down at the moose camp, and I was very thankful to be able to go there, to see the land and see the water to see the sacredness in that place. The Grandfathers and Grandmothers were there, I could feel that and I felt that our prayers were being answered,” said Bernard.
“I’m so grateful that Jacob took that time and next went to the Grand Parade where he camped out in the middle of winter. And he put his prayer there, and then to come here all this time to sit here, to be finally acknowledged. For someone as young as Jacob, to put his life on the line like this.”
“Jacob’s brought people together from all over, not only the people that are still here, but also those grandmothers and grandfathers who are in the spirit world, our ancestors, your ancestors from this land,” Bernard said.
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