A hunger strike by three Inuit land defenders - Billy Gauthier, Jerry Kohlmeister and Delilah Saunders – is a powerful symbol of the tragic choices that will face Inuit hunters and fishers if planned flooding for the Muskrat Falls dam goes ahead.
Flooding will release deadly methylmercury into the water system where it will accumulate in the fish, seals, duck eggs and other wild food that are central to the diet of Inuit people living around the downstream Lake Melville Estuary.
The provincial government plans to monitor the fish and issue warnings when the mercury levels become unsafe.
A government MP summed it up this approach in a facebook post: “Just measure MeHg [methylmercury] levels, eat less fish.”
What this approach means for Inuit families is an impossible choice between abandoning the food that sustains them and their culture, or risking the devastating impacts of mercury poisoning.
“I come from a very large family that couldn’t get by without country food,” Delilah Saunders explained.