An inmate awaiting trial in Prince Albert has renewed her hunger strike as she has refused to eat meals now for nearly three months.
Faith Eagle’s strike comes with a call for change in how Indigenous people are treated in Canadian prisons.
“I think about food, I’m hungry… but I also realize what our ancestors went through and what our people are going through right now,” Eagle said.
Behind the walls of the Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert, Eagle has consumed little more than Gatorade, Boost nutritional drinks and water since the second week of September.
It was only after a trip to the hospital in mid-November that she had a small meal.
“I needed something in my stomach to eat, so I had a sandwich, a juice box, a banana and that was it,” Eagle explained. “And then they were all happy and whatever, but I said no, this is round two.”
That ‘second round’ is happening while Eagle awaits her trial on assault charges.
She began her protests as a way to raise awareness about her living conditions, which she still calls too cold, too isolated and too unsanitary.
The protest she said is a way to help inform as many people as possible about the way Indigenous people are treated while incarcerated. Her strike is also to raise awareness about the number of Indigenous people in prison.
“On unit one right now… it’s 100 per cent Indigenous,” Eagle said.
Indigenous people are not only vastly overrepresented in prison populations, but also when it comes to specific health outcomes.
Indigenous prisoners accounted for 40 per cent of recorded suicide attempts over the past decade in federal prisons, 55 per cent of incidents of self-injury in 2021 and 83 per cent of all who died by suicide last year according to the Canadian Government.
Eagle calls the trends a result of colonization, residential schools and intergenerational trauma, and believes more cultural programming for inmates and staff, as well as greater access to elders, could be possible solutions.
“We need to be spiritually balanced, emotionally, physically and mentally,” Eagle explained. “We don’t have that unless we ask for it, so that’s what I’m speaking up for.”
The provincial government said they are aware of the protest, but there isn’t a lot they can do at the moment due to the overall number of people in the facility.
“What she has to say is important, and we need to listen,” Saskatchewan’s corrections minister, Christine Tell, said. “We need to listen but there’s not a lot that we can do about it. Pine Grove correctional facility is overcapacity.”
Eagle, however, said she has no plans to be quiet on the issue until she sees conditions improve.