| Nov 01, 2007

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Feature Article - November 1, 2007

Dillman Hunger Strike Reaches Day 24, with No End in Sightby Jeff Green

“I reserve the right to make a new decision every day.”

That’s how Donna Dillman describes her commitment to carry on a hunger strike to pressure the Ontario government towards calling an inquiry into the environmental impact of uranium mining.


When interviewed on Tuesday from her current home, the road allowance between Highway 509 and the Robertsville mine, Dillman said she continues to feel well, physically and spiritually, although she is prone to some dizziness when she moves suddenly, and her upper body strength is not what it normally is. Her blood pressure and pulse rate have remained constant throughout, and although she was finding it difficult adjusting to the cold about a week ago, the addition of wood stoves and other amenities have improved the situation.

She continues to subsist on a mixture of maple syrup, hot water, lemons, and cayenne pepper; to date she has gone through about 3 litres of syrup, and she also takes vegetable or fruit juice that people bring to her.

“People have been bringing an average of about 1 litre of juice each day,” she said, when interviewed from inside a trailer on the site. “But I’m not drinking any kinds of smoothies or anything like that, only liquids,” she added.

It is also important to Donna Dillman that she remain at Robertsville, rather than at her house near Lanark Village. It allows her to demonstrate her resolve at a location that has been a focal point for anti-uranium forces ever since members of the Shabot Obaadjiwaan and Ardoch Algonqun First Nations established an encampment behind the gate on June 28. The occupation effectively prevented a tenant of the mine, Frontenac Ventures Corporation, from carrying out a uranium exploration project on a 30,000-acre mining claim that is accessed from the site. A court injunction is now in place, which enjoins the First Nations to allow the company free and unfettered access to the site, and even though the First Nations have removed themselves from behind the gate, the Ardoch Algonquins still have a lock on the gate.

Negotiations aimed at setting up a mediation process continue to take place, although the issue of observing or monitoring the company’s activities on the exploration property during a 12-week mediation process remains outstanding.

Contempt of court hearings, stemming from the injunction, will start on November 14 if mediation is agreed to.

As the First Nations communities have been occupied with legal matters and mediation, the focal point at the site has shifted to Donna Dillman’s hunger strike, but she continues to receive support from the Algonquin communities.

“All along this has been a tremendous example of aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples working together for a common cause, and that story has not been told,” Dillman said.

A few days into her hunger strike, Donna Dillman got the idea for a “Bring Grandma Home” campaign, and she began asking people to wear buttons and put up signs on their lawns with that message.

“To me it is more open-ended than a no-uranium sign. People know where they stand on that, but a “Bring Grandma Home” sign opens conversations, plus it has an emotional appeal. The fact is I’m not a camper, and I don’t like the cold, so I would like to go home.”

So, why is Donna Dillman living out in the cold, and not eating?

“I have made it clear that I don’t have a death wish, but I have said I have a death willingness, which is of concern to people who are close to me. There is a broader concern here; we have to look at what we are doing with this planet.”

She has decided to ask for an inquiry into uranium mining because an inquiry in Nova Scotia about 20 years ago led to a moratorium on uranium mining in the province that has persisted to this day. “My goal is for a moratorium in eastern Ontario, followed by a moratorium in the entire province, but an inquiry would be a start.”

Dillman has not heard anything from Premier McGuinty since starting her hunger strike, but her husband, author Mike Nickerson, told her that he met last week with Mr. McGuinty’s brother David, who is a federal MP.

“He told Mike that he has received a lot of letters about this, and his brother has received even more. So I am hopeful.”

Donna Dillman sits on the National Council of the Federal Green Party, and Party Leader Elizabeth May has expressed public support for her cause.

“Donna’s effort plays an important role in the campaign to end uranium mining and prospecting in Canada,” said Ms. May. “Her actions are indicative of the broad-based, community opposition to uranium extraction and the severe environmental and health effects posed by a uranium mine in Eastern Ontario.”

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