'I'm fighting for my rights': Labrador's Beatrice Hunter jailed, but defiant
'There's only so long people can be suppressed until you have to do something about it,' says Inuk woman
Labrador's Beatrice Hunter is speaking out from behind bars in a wide-ranging interview and detailing her experiences at an almost all-male prison, being "bullied" by the judge who ordered her into custody, blasting "British colonial" laws and vowing to continue to "stand up to Nalcor."
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"I'm fighting for my rights," Hunter told CBC's Ted Blades, host of On The Go, inside Her Majesty's Penitentiary on Tuesday.
"It's not easy. Just because you believe in something, you shouldn't be locked up for it."
Hunter was transferred from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to HMP last week, after she refused to promise to stay away from the Muskrat Falls construction site — a condition imposed on her after a previous protest at the site. She ended up at HMP because the women's correctional facility in Clarenville is at capacity.
"I do not like the strip searches," Hunter said, adding there are 10 other women currently in HMP.
"The guards and the workers have been excellent with me ... I feel safe," she said, noting she doesn't see any male inmates.
'There's something wrong — all lives matter'
Hunter admits she never thought she'd be jailed, and believed she would only get a fine. But she said she wasn't going to lie to the judge about whether she would stay away from the Muskrat Falls site.
"There's only so long people can be suppressed until you have to do something about it," Hunter said.
"I know if I had given into the conditions, to me, it felt like I had given up and I don't want to give up."
But what happened next caught Hunter off guard.
"[The judge] wouldn't even give me a chance to speak, and I told him that he was a bully ... I find it very intimidating and it's just like in high school, being bullied by someone who ensures to show that you're different," Hunter said.
I know what I'm doing is right and if I was doing something wrong, I'd be all alone and I'm not alone.- Beatrice Hunter
She points to a protest at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in St. John's, where the building's door was kicked in — an incident that has so far not resulted in charges.
"That's discriminatory to us, to us Labradorians. It's not right, there's something wrong — all lives matter," Hunter said.
"God didn't create us just to be dogs to your British colonial rule."
Hunter insisted she isn't a criminal.
"My people had nothing to do with creating that law so I feel it does not apply to me," she said.
Hunter said she was abruptly told by an RCMP officer she was going to St. John's and it was after that, when the plane took off, that she became unnerved.
"You hear so many times in Western Canada that Aboriginal women go missing or murdered all the time and I was like,'whoa, I hope this doesn't happen to me,'" Hunter recalled.
'I know what I'm doing is right'
Hunter said it's "overwhelming and heartbreaking" being so far away from her family, but she isn't backing down. She believes it's up to her and her supporters to continue to lead the charge — and said there is a lot at stake.
"If our leaders aren't going to be strong enough to make sure Labrador lives are not going to be lost, especially after the Mud Lake flooding, I can't trust Nalcor after the Mud Lake flooding and I think it's going to be the Labrador Land Protectors' responsibility to make sure no lives get lost," she said.
Hunter admitted that other legal options, such as house arrest, likely would not have kept her away from Muskrat Falls. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
"[My answer to the judge] will be the same as last time. Somebody has to stand up to Nalcor and tell them you're not putting Labrador lives in danger," Hunter said.
She said she is thankful for the support of her family, the Labrador Land Protectors group and people across the country.
"I know what I'm doing is right and if I was doing something wrong, I'd be all alone and I'm not alone," Hunter said.
"This is for the future of Labrador. This is for my grandchild."
With files from On the Go