at the Courthouse in Nelson, B.C.
Eloise Charet ends fast - early February 2001
Provincial Safe Drinking Water plan - critique of January 31, 2001 Kelowna meeting
Dear Higher-Ups - letter of Jan. 25th about being warned away from the Courthouse
Gandhi's fast - excerpts edited by Eloise Charet on January 18th
Taking a Break and Starting Again - message from Eloise on January 7th
My devotion to water - Eloise writes about her fast on Day 38
Excerpts from a letter - Dec 9th or 10th, 2000
Interview with Eloise Charet on Day 14 - November 14, 2000
Canada, Elections 2000 - statement in response to a Nelson Daily News editorial
Fed up and fasting for Life - Eloise addresses the true nature of violence
Related News Releases - f rom the Elliott/Anderson/Christian/Trozzo ( EACT) watersheds website
Open Letter - to Government leaders and the People of Canada
My Dear Prime-minister, Premiers. M.P.'s. M.L.A.'s & most of all,
to the People of Canada,
We have tried everything humanly possible to save our watersheds in the Kootenays, B.C. In 1997, I was arrested with my 11 year old daughter. I spent 55 days in jail fasting on juice, and we lost our [water] to industry. In 1998, I walked across Canada for water; 99% of Canadians were totally concerned about losing their clean sources, all except our government. Seeing three generations in one house, all in wheelchairs, telling us: "Don't eat the fish!", to entire villages, towns with condemned wells, Walkertons ready to explode.
In one generation, our children can no longer drink or swim just anywhere for fear of rashes, diarrhea, parasites or toxic chemical cocktails. With less than 1% pure water left on earth, 30,000 people dying daily from tainted water, this is a state of emergency, and we cannot carry on with business as usual. Like air & earth, water is more precious than oil, gold or money. It was equally given, now it is a commodity. Most of the pure springs of the world have been bought by companies. When a local judge decides that a corporation has more rights to water than a citizen, not only do we lose our free clean sources, but our freedom as well.
I refuse to give or bathe my children with poison water. In support of the grandmothers arrested or in jail from Vancouver to Algonquin territory:
I am fasting on water, for water, at the Nelson, B.C. Courthouse
As a mother and grandmother, a pacisfist, this is the last resort and most ancient form of protest I can do. I will not give up becuase I am demanding the most reasonable request on earth; a plea for life itself:
It means doing something right - not looking into it, nor endless cunning legislation that takes years to settle, no more consultants. Stop any further industry in our watersheds, save what's left, then concentrate on cleaning the rest.
For example, our federal water ministry can gather all information strategy to clean up tainted water and work with the provinces and the local people to turn things around.
Listen to everybody's problems and offer sensible healthy solutions (chlorine isn't one) and all services.
As Canadians, if we can make this our #1 priority, unite for one simple cause with the same mind, heart and determination, we can truly make a difference; then, perhaps, we can finally call ourselves a nation.
I dedicate myself to the childhood poverty in our country.Let's us Leave a Living Legacy
November 6, 2000 EACT news report
Eloise Charet is a Canadian hero. On March 27th 1975 she risked her life to save 42 orphans from the killing fields of Cambodia. Today, she is again risking her life in a hunger strike that began November 1st in front of the courthouse in Nelson, British Columbia. When asked what she wants to achieve, her response is quick and concise, "I am asking for the protection of all the watersheds in Canada, and I'll be fasting until I get it." Referring to Judge McEwan's recent observation that Canadians have no legal right to clean drinking water, Eloise says she felt "it was time to do something absolutely dramatic. An entire generation of people has spent their lives trying to save their drinking water here in the Slocan Valley. They have tried everything: petitions, phone calls, cycling to Victoria. I even walked across Canada to talk with the federal government, but they refused to meet with me. When your feet are bound and your hands are tied, denying yourself food is the last form of protest that you have."
Tanya Wright, a member of EACT, the group that has staged numerous protests in the Slocan Valley, says "Eloise is passionate and determined. We will help raise awareness of her actions and hope the government responds before her health is seriously affected."
Eloise says her hunger strike is also a show of solidarity with Betty Krawczyk, the 72 year old grandmother who is currently serving a year long sentence in jail for protesting the logging of ancient rainforest in the Elaho Valley, north of Squamish.
Eloise knows how important clean drinking water is. Twenty-five years ago in Cambodia, a doctor told her there was no point in trying to help an orphan who had lost too much weight after contracting diarrhea, a condition common in areas without clean drinking water. Eloise refused to take no for an answer. She spent hour after hour injecting saline solution under the dying child's skin as shells exploded around the orphanage. That water, and Eloise's courage, saved the child's life and Eloise is convinced that protecting clean water sources in Canada is worth risking her life for again.
November 9, 2000 EACT news report
Eloise Charet is entering the ninth day of her hunger strike. The grandmother of three is standing in front of the Supreme Court Building in Nelson BC. She is refusing to eat in a bid to protect Canada's watersheds. In a recent radio interview, Eloise said she is determined not to give up: "I must take this fast to the end. I cannot stand here and say I am going to do this for two weeks or something. People have to take this seriously, and that is why, until I die, I will demand the protection of all watersheds in Canada. I am putting my life on the line for the future of all Canadians and their water."
Friends and supporters of Eloise are concerned by the lack of attention and media coverage for her cause. Although local press and radio stations are covering her hunger strike, the larger media outlets have shown no interest. "Eventually they will cover this story. I don't know what the spark will be, but it will happen," said Eloise.
Eloise is used to being ignored. In 1998 she walked across Canada talking to people about water issues. When she arrived in Ottawa she was refused a meeting with Jim Gouk, her local MP who is again running for parliament. Around the cement fence of the courthouse, Eloise has placed containers of water that she gathered from her walk across Canada. Some of the water is contaminated with mercury from mine tailings; some of it is radioactive from uranium mining; some of it has fecal coliform, the same bug that contaminated the drinking water in Walkerton, Ontario. She is asking people to bring down samples of their own water to leave with her. She is also asking people to join her even if only for a short while. A supporter has donated a cell phone to Eloise so she can be reached for interviews. The phone number is 250-354-9870
Fed Up and Fasting For Life
I would like to talk honestly about the true nature of violence in our society:
Thousands of women are walking all over the world to protest the violence against women and children. A woman is raped every 2 minutes; in B.C., 59% have experience sexual abuse. Unfortunately, our policing task force has some of the highest statistics on record for spousal abuse.
Our children will have witnessed 400,000 acts of violence on T.V. alone by the time they graduate. No wonder accidents and suicide are their leading cause of mortality.
Violence is 30,000 people dying daily from tainted water.
Violence is Walkerton, and their chidrens' deaths are symbols of events to come.
My grandmother told me: "Good Government is equal to the quality of water given to the grandchildren." Well, ours stinks!
To those who dwell and swell on sensationalism and money power, let us look at the true nature of violence in our society, and with honesty, integrity and compassion try to solve the problem, rather than perpetuate it. We are tired of being called protester, hippy, extremist, radical, cultist, anarchist and more. We are actually people of all ages, colors, and walks of life. We have suffered scorn, intimidation, humiliation, injury, arrest and jail for such a noble cause as to try and save anything of life on Earth.
We have tried everything humanly possible to save our watersheds, but they keep falling to industry. Almost every village has lost their water around us. How much more can we do to convince the people of this disastrous economic situation that annihilates everything in its path and leave nothing for future generations? Has the world gone mad? I'm fed up- I've watched our 'leaders' squander our living legacy, and leave us poison to feed our children. "I'm fed [up] with [the] system, the stress and the sickness that is overcoming our humanity.
I am beginning a water fast for life, as one of the oldest forms of protest.
I am demanding immediate protection of all watersheds across our nation.
I'm just a poor mom and a grandmother, and there is another one in jail, and we refuse to bury our children.
These are the times, the last stand for air, earth, water; for life itself.Eloise Charet
CANADA, ELECTIONS 2000
There is no democracy when all voices are not heard equally. The chosen ones are always on the front page of the press and the rest are banned to the obituaries at the back. They say that less and less people are voting because they don't believe in anything. No wonder!
Two years ago, when I crossed Canada for the cause of water, I discovered how bad it was and that 99% of Canadians were concerned about losing their pure sources, all except our government. When I entered the front doors of Parliament, proudly showing my 13 year old daughter, Emma, for her very first time, we were immediately surrounded by the police. Thank goodness we had an excuse to be there, looking for our dear Alliance M.P. Mr. Gouk. I went to see him three times - I called and he never showed up or called back. After one month of water demonstration, candleight vigils, we were so intimidated by the police that Emma finally said: "Let's get out of here Mom, I don't like this place and I never want to come back again."
They were busy building an underground walkway on "Hungry Hill" so our M.P.'s don't get their shoes wet. It looked more like an underground getaway because they live in fear. The same with their roof renovations- it was for security and cameras. Our Canadian dollars at work. M.P.'s have dry shoes while our children go hungry. We have had the worst statistics for childhood poverty in the Western world.
My grandmother once said that: "Good government is equal to the quality of water given to the children." Well, ours stinks! Walkterton is just the tip of the iceberg and we are on the Titanic. Do you trust the captains?
I have no respect for the arrogance of these elections, when we are starving for good water, food, the truth, honor and integrity.
Fed-up and fasting on water for water at the courthouse in Nelson, B.C."Eloise Charet
Stephen Lones: I'm with Eloise Charet, it's November 14, year 2000. We're standing in front of the Nelson Courthouse. Eloise is in the 14th day of a fast for water, and she's going to tell us a little bit about it, and I'm going to ask her some hopefully intelligent questions here.
Eloise Charet: [Laughs] Well, basically it's watching everything that went on in our valley and how unsupportive everything around it was, and how they were very critical of what happened at Trozzo, and I can't say it's any different from what happened to any other watershed in our valley. And I thought what can I do to help or to add to it, and then I saw these elections coming up and I thought, my goodness, they're going for elections with so much arrogance, they're going to forget about the environment again unless we bring something forward. So that was the main weight behind my fast - Trozzo Creek and the elections. Not to mention the fact that after walking across the country, the burden of everything that I saw and experienced is just too much to remain silent, in terms of what's happening with our watersheds and our water. And I felt that before the elections, if I could squeeze this in and make it outstanding, then we will see protection of our watersheds.
SL: Do you think with what's happened in Walkerton, Ontario, people are more responsive, willing to hear about water issues?
Eloise: Absolutely! I think Walkerton affects us all because it's also the wakeup call that in everybody's backyard there's a lot of problems with our water sources and our watersheds. There's too much industry, that's what I saw across Canada, many Walkertons just ready to explode. Who's had their water tested lately. I just heard this morning, on the coast, that Salt Spring Island, [and] from Gibsons all the way up to Powell River, all the water is condemned. They've found traces of arsenic in the water and people have to buy bottled water now. It's just the beginning. Walkerton is just that many died at once - I have a feeling the rest of us are on slow kill.
SL: What kind of response have you had here over the last two weeks?
Eloise: It's been very slow. The response from the people in my valley has been absolutely, totally supportive. I get less than 1% meanness, so it's really wonderful, it's been awesome. It's been so great being near the courthouse, all the people at the courthouse have been so kind. I have no complaints. My greatest worry is getting the word beyond our valley and out to all of Canada and to those people that are in power right now.
SL: So, what methods do you think people who are concerned about water can use to reach outside the valley - other than yourself, what can we do?
Eloise: Well, I would say the elections are certainly a message that people can move on, and speak out to their candidates and so on about what is meaningful to them. I think that's of upmost importance, to remind them, because we're in this time. I think that people could also just give up something, hang a ribbon on their tree, do something nice for your water, show you care. It's in the little things that we manage to achieve the greater things. As usual I'm not a movement or anything like that, and I always feel that people should move on inspiration and what they feel is right for them to do. I think that speaking out at this point and saying we're not taking it, waking up, demanding that their sources be analyzed and everything, I think is very important.
SL: I remember that you mentioned that before on a least two occasions, how there might be many different factions working for protection in their own watersheds, but what you're trying to do is something that is sort of an overview.
Eloise: Yeah, absolutely! I think that my whole sense is to unite our country. In a letter that I'm going to send off to the Prime Minister, at the end of it I say, if as Canadians we can unite for this one simple cause, maybe then, perhaps, we can call ourselves, finally, a nation. Because it seems that nothing is uniting, even among the environmental groups there's bickering. Everybody feels so disconnected, even across our country. And walking it is what made it real for me, it's what connected it, and for me that's important. It's important that Walkerton know what we're doing, it's important that we know what's happening to them, it's important that everybody wake up to what's in our backyard and all the industry. If we can move at this very moment to save any watershed, now that is a difference! And I really believe that we can do it, all of us.
After 38 days, I am digesting my reasons for fasting. I first started on water & lemon. Then, with being outside in the chilly November winds, I added herbs and sweetener, and that made a big difference because you go through headaches, nausea and so on. So, it becomes a slower, healthier descent into fasting. I actually feel great.
I now see it more as a sacrifice: to render something sacred, my offering to validate this great cause for water. All our prayers focusing on this hope. I'm cleansing, emptying myself, I receive something that is elevated from the ordinary to the sacred. Pure cleansing healing, nourishing spirit in living water.
In many traditions one is taught if you want something so bad, give up something and it will come. I remember when I first went to the desert of Morocco to teach, they felt uncomfortable with a single young woman. So, to prove myself, I fasted for 3 days and 3 nights outside the compound and they finally accepted me.
After being tied to a stove for 30 years like a doukhabour mama, it's nice to take a break, a retreat, to sever yourself from attachments for a while, to revise your reasons for being here. To let go of the roles that define us and concentrate on who we are inside. When I detach myself, my essence becomes stronger, more vital, my purpose more real.
Yoga means union, yoke BODY-MIND-SPIRIT, often all three are pulling in different directions. Today we are physically saturated, the bulemia of consumerism, our minds are stressed out and our souls are languishing. So detachment is a time of realignment with spirit, mind and matter working together. Like the Buddhists who say if we could live every moment like being on an airplane going down, we would realize how precious we are to one another; how precious a tree, a brook, a bird is.
My last note, I will always love cheesecake, even after I die, but first I want pure water to make it. Clean, refreshing, alive and well for the sake of the children and grandchildren.
Dec. 9th or 10th, 2000
...It is easier to fast now then in jail because I can mix my herbs, watch my salts and take a bubble bath and/or enema at will. If I overdue something, I have to get back on top, and my body tells me right away...
...I went to see Dr. _____ because I have come to know and trust him; I remind him of his sister... Anyway, all is well and I will visit him every week. I have lost about 25 lbs, now I am almost normal, but it's the next 25 that will be more crucial.
Everyday, I go and sit at the courthouse and take up space. I've become quite a part of everybody's life. One of my sheriff buddies introduced me to his brother as the resident protester....
...Some days I feel so sad and cry a lot over myself, the cause, my motherhood, the world situation; sometimes everything seems meaningless, but some joyful caring characters come along and help me believe and have courage; even a baby's smiles makes it all worthwhile. I just don't know what else to do; I started this and feel like I'm in the middle; the lack of attention has helped strip down my ego and teach me once more that the reward for patience is more patience. It's easy to believe in something when everybody has a common ground, but when you stand, all alone, it's really hard, you definitely just feel that you are just one candle lighting the night while everybody is watching T.V.
So, I decided to do a candle light vigil from solstice to Christmas day for, what else, the sake of the protection of all watersheds in Canada. Everybody is busy getting those ultimate gifts. I will concentrate, pray on giving something that is worth nothing, that we take for granted; like a mother being without value or status in this society. Where economics are more important than family. I wish to give the first total PRESENT of the millennium - PURE CLEAN WATER - to begin a new era that will eventually honor and respect life and genesis, that will give hope for the next thousand years and all generations to come. So, that's my latest. People seem interested and I'm sure we can set up events... ...By then, I should be down to skin & bones. Our strength is in the collective, and for me , Christmas solstice means coming together of the extended family in joy; sharing and caring for one another; revising our direction, cleaning up; forgiveness; setting a new course for the coming year; another new beginning...So, lot's of peace & love,
a gentle kind of fast
Since November 1st I fasted all the way till Christmas, around 55 days, a similar time length to my fast in jail. Then I started to feel discouraged; I had stood for two months in bitter cold weather, not knowing if I would freeze to death first, having to take care of home, a 15 year old daughter and a part-time job. I started to wonder if the only press coverage I would get is to be listed in the obituary.
Between my Mom coming down for Christmas and the sweet smell of sugar plums in the air, I decided to take a break. I had the equivalent of three meals altogether, and some alcohol to boot, but you can't do that much, otherwise you get sick. I had so much gas, everybody asked when I was going back on my fast.
When I went to pick up my water samples at the courthouse and told the women working there that I felt rather useless and was going to take time off, they leaned over the counter and said, "You are doing something worthwhile, don't give up." KBS Radio and Nelson Co-op Radio said they would await my decision about what I was going to do in the new year; I was very touched by their support.
Then the phone rang off the hook with people calling from various watersheds around British Columbia, such as Erickson, Little Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Grand Forks. I heard how in Nanaimo they were battling in court to prevent the possibility of industrial toxins leaching into their watershed, and how in Grand Forks, arsenic and nitrates had been found in their drinking water. They felt my fast to be a positive action which can help unite us; their words were so inspiring.
I began Phase Two of my fast on January 3rd. The next day, with a warm belly, a strong heart, and a determined mind, I returned to the courthouse with my banners and dirty water samples. I felt very welcome and proud of what I am doing. In Phase One I lost 25 lbs, and it was like peeling off a layer, but now the reserves are gone and the next part is going to be a lot tougher.
I just want to remind everybody that I am approaching this fast in a very feminine way - disorganized and imperfect. This is not a masculine, disciplined hunger strike with set time and strong demands. This is more of a gentle fast, a window the draw attention to the protection of all Canadian watersheds. I'm just a 'softie', I don't want to hurt or blame anybody or see it as a battle of wills. My symbol is love and compassion in my actions.
My image is that of a little person who has tried everything to save the water. Now all I can do is to sacrifice and persevere, be a beacon of faith and hope in our history, stand in the face of oppressive economics that have become more important than life and our humanity.
I pray that our people will awaken to this crisis and feel empowered to do something for our water today. I'm only one, but we are many in our suffering, and our strength lies in the collective, in all of us joining hands for something that truly has meaning.Eloise
Gandhi's life was an embodiment of very basic principles: harmony in diversity, love despite differences. Divisions invite collisions, separation breeds hate and violence in thought and action. His belief in SATYAGRAHA was the foundation of a new way of conducting oneself in spirit. SATYA means truth, the equivalent of love, and both are attributes of the soul; AGRAHA is firmness or force. This was never so tested as when he fasted.
It was the 'vow of supreme sacrifice', done for the public benefit and not for personal gain. He did it when words and actions failed and there was nothing left but to fast. It was his last means of communication, attempting to bring people together; a way of going out to them into their hearts so that they could feel what he felt inside.
His epic fast for the untouchables improved their conditions and snapped a chain that stretched back into antiquity that enslaved millions. "My fast was nothing compared with the miseries that the outcasts have undergone for ages", he said.
He fasted to unite all the poeple
After his death his greatest disciple said: "The greatest thing Gandhi offered the world was a way out of this madness where profit, greed and domination dictates, and hopefully it will not die with him."( above excerpts edited from Gandi: his life and message to the world )
Eloise Charet - January 18, 2001
January 25, 2001
After standing for 3 months in front of the Nelson courthouse for clean water, my signs went missing and nobody knew anything about it. Then, 6 days later, I am informed that security has them in their 'possession'. I am ordered to remove my display from your fence, or else. I am told this is nothing personal against my issue, but you can't understand why I am standing in front of your courthouse.
Let me enlighten you: 3 years ago, I spent 55 days in jail fasting as I attempted to save my watershed and failed. I was told that this is not an issue of judges, but of legislators. So, the next year, I walked from Victoria to Ottawa for seven months, collecting water samples and stories, only to be intimidated on Parliament Hill. What can a poor citizen do? Then I heard judges in B.C. stating that corporations have more rights to water than people. That was it. I decided to fast and pray, because I don't agree with this law; it is poisoning us, and to demonstrate that I display my dirty samples on your fence. This issue is personal and concerns all of us.
My first impression of a courthouse is that everybody washes and dresses up to go there to show respect, which is a wonderful thing. In life, there are two kinds of respect; one false, because it is ordered and imposed, it is based on fear and does not last; the other, true respect, based on love, because it is earned and not demanded. It all has to do with our example and how we treat others. The difference is attempting to mediate a fair solution before creating conflict (peace), as opposed to hiding things (hypocrisy) and nicely ordering (domination) them off your property (territorialism). A good definition of absolute partriarchy.
Nothing I have done warranted this form of intimidation. I have always tried to show courtesy, and this was returned to me by all your kind employees. It was a glimmer of hope in this uncaring institutional world. Now you have shattered all of this: YES SIR, I will abide by your orders, but not without conveying to you my innermost feelings.
I feel like a poor matriarch sitting on the edge of your world. I watch renovations to your courthouse; a special antique sofa goes up to the library; experts install costly locks and surveillance to watch everybody suspiciously; men in expensive suits talking about the new elevator, and upgrading this or that. Where are your priorities when Canada suffers the greatest childhood poverty in the Western World? Obviously to uphold the structure as the rule of the law at the cost of your inhumanity. Like cutting down the old tree on the street so your cameras can see, so sad. Your job was to make this a better, safer place to live in, and it's worse. You have forgotten the source, the children, the mother: the heart of the matter. The ultimate reason why you are there in the 1st place.Eloise Charet
On February 1st, I held a candlelight vigil by the courthouse, across from the Heritage Hotel, where the dignitaries came to raise money for rebuilding the Mountain Chief cabin on Kokanee Glacier in Michel Trudeau's name. Only one older gentleman came by from the party. He was shocked to find out how bad our situation is in the mountains concerning the loss of our watersheds to forestry and mining.
I exhausted myself to the bone and was dehydrated by the time I got home. I was not doing very much good, and my fast was drawing more attention than the water conditions. Three months had gone by since I began, and I felt I had accomplished nothing. I also realize I haven't saved one drop of water since I began my struggle, just raised awareness.
Soon after that, I just gave up my lonely struggle but, as usual, I give up on myself, but never on water or the plight of future generations.
This is the end of February and I am planning to go to Vancouver and Victoria and show off my dirty water samples - carry on, carry on...
I attended the public meeting held by the B.C. provincial government in Kelowna and was intimidated, laughed at and told to end my speech, while others were treated with more respect. My first observation was the number of Ministry cars with a paid weekend at a fancy hotel. I would like to know the total cost of these meetings. Secondly, the room was composed of 95% men; so, I was not surprised to find their drinking water protection booklet was dominantly patriarchal. It is laced with words and phrases like management, enforcement and regulatory powers, authority to implement, control over activities, protection orders, training and certification, improve the enforcement of safe drinking water regulations. Sounds pretty scary, almost as bad as using Chlorine.
The way they see it, protecting watersheds means treating your water, rather than saving what is left of pristine sources, keeping in mind that there is only 1% pure water left in the World. As taxpayers, we subsidize corporations to abuse our healthy clean water. Then we shall pay for another bureaucracy who will arrest us if we don't treat our water. But, the most exorbitant cost of all are the filtration plants: to service 100 municipalities around Victoria and Vancouver would cost approximately 700 million dollars with an annual upkeep of approximately 30 million dollars. Something that was once pure and free to all is molested, then managed and treated, all at our expense. Sounds like our modern times, there is no preventative strategy whatsoever.
My favourite term is to be called a Stakeholder or Ratepayer and to be given a token position in their plan and pay for it. It is just like staking a claim to water, very territorial in attitude; soon they will sell us shares to our children. Everything is numbers and economics; however, science and logic does not rule genesis and emotions. Managing nature, i.e. our water sources, is like attempting to manage a woman - a very arrogant assumption.
It is equally arrogant for our provincial government to give corporations access to domestic use watersheds and then think they can educate us about the need to treat the resulting unclean water. It makes more sense to protect the water by not damaging it in the first place. Citizens who have been jailed while attempting to save healthy watersheds from commerical exploitation already know this. It's the government officials and bureaucrats, not the people, who need educating here.
The best we can do is to leave nature alone; allow no more industry in watersheds, and revive the damaged sources. I like my water free, pure and simple, like my life.
Let us Leave a Living Legacy,Eloise Charet
228 Anderson St.
Nelson, B.C. V1L 3X7