'Richard is very, very weak': Fisherman's hunger strike enters Day 10

Richard Gillett is on Day 10 of his hunger strike. His father wants him to stop putting his health in jeopardy.

Union vice-president says he's not leaving the protest site unless it's in an ambulance

Richard Gillett estimates he's lost 30 pounds as of Day 10 of his hunger strike. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

As Richard Gillett hits Day 10 of his hunger strike outside the Fisheries and Oceans building in St. John's, his father wants him to stop it.

His father, John Gillett, was standing outside in the misty rain on Saturday, with about 20 other protesters.

"Richard is not doing well today. Richard is very, very weak," said John Gillett.

But, said John Gillett, somebody — "unfortunately, it's my son" — has to stick up for the Newfoundland fishery.

John Gillett, Richard's father, supports his son's cause but wants him to stop putting his health in jeopardy. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

The Twillingate fisherman is in the second week of his hunger strike, despite being diabetic and having a heart condition. Richard Gillett, the vice-president of a splinter union group, the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland Labrador, wants DFO's fisheries science reviewed, as well as the relationship between DFO and FISH-NL's rival Fish, Food and Allied Workers union. FISH-NL has not been certified.

"He said he's going to go off of this hill in an ambulance, and it breaks my heart that it's got to come down to this" John Gillett said.

"I told him that he shouldn't be doing it," said John Gillett. "'Dad,' he said, 'it's got to be somebody's son that got to stand up for the Newfoundland people.'"

John Gillett says he supports his son's cause, but doesn't support him putting his health in jeopardy.

"This is not a FISH-NL protest, this is not a political protest," John Gillett said.

"This is a fish harvester who's sick of kicking the can down the road and being bullied by the government, by DFO, and he's going to be bullied out of the fishery just like a good many more people are."

Gillett has been living in this tent outside DFO on White Hills Road in St. John's for the last 10 days. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

​"My wife couldn't believe how thin I'm gone, thinking for sure it's 30-plus pounds now," Richard Gillett said from his cot set up on the grass on the side of the road. He's been on a water-only diet, while camped out on the grounds of the White Hills building.

"Don't question my resolve," he said. "I'm here until I can't move, I can't talk, I can't anything."

Richard Gillett lies on his cot in his tent on Day 10 of his hunger strike outside DFO's offices on White Hills Road in St. Johns. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

Since beginning his hunger strike April 13, he says, he has become very tired and weak. But he promises to keep the strike going "however long it takes," despite his father's concerns.

"My dad wants me to give it up because he don't want to see his son die," Gillett said.

Gillett said what he's asking for is to move the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador forward.

"We still haven't got nothing," Gillett said. "All we got is a meeting as of this morning."

"They know what we want I think what I'm asking for is not unreasonable," Richard Gillett said.

Richard Gillett wants a review of the relationship between the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

About 20 protesters were present around lunchtime Saturday. They said they expect fish harvesters from the west coast of the island to join them on Monday.

About the Author

Alyson Samson

Alyson Samson is a journalist working with the CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador.