A Canoe Lake First Nation activist is embarking on a hunger strike to protest the recent, substantial Husky Energy oil spill.
Emil Bell began his strike on Friday, roughly two-and-a-half weeks after more than about 250,000 litres of oil spilled into the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone from a Husky Energy pipeline. The spill forced Prince Albert to declare a state of emergency and construct a 30 km pipeline to provide water for the city.
This is Bell’s fourth hunger strike. He said it’s his preferred method of protest because it arouses attention and forces people to take a hard look at current issues.
“We need to get many more people doing something about it,” he said of the spill. “It gets people moving towards what we’re fighting for.”
In all of his protests, Bell said he’s fighting what he calls “apathetic complacency” in the population which he said leads to people unaware of the spill’s environmental costs and not questioning their MP’s about how to solve the issue.
“People are so used to things being done for them, they can’t seem to wake up to the reality that we are in very deep water here,” he said.
Many protests against Husky Energy and the oil spill have focused on how water is essential to life, and Bell’s is no different.
“Water is life. No water, no life, it’s that simple,” he said. “If there’s no water, what are they going to drink? Are you ‘gonna melt down the dollars and try to create water out of it?”
Bell had harsh words for Premier Brad Wall.
“(He’s) been bought off by the oil companies,” Bell said. “He’s a little puppet for the oil industry. He doesn’t work the people. The sooner people realize that, the sooner they can try to get him out of office.”
It’s unclear when the hunger strike will finish and Bell said he did not have a firm timeline in place.
“We’re taking things slow, we don’t want to go into this gung-ho. Right now the number of people doing something is very low,” he admitted.
When more people become involved, Bell said they’ll work towards something larger such as a protest.
According to Bell, his longest hunger strike was 36 days.