Winnipeg Free Press — Fasting for change
After walking more than 600 kilometres last spring for the rights of Indigenous people, Winnipegger Steve Heinrichs has a renewed appetite for the issue.
That’s why the West End resident plans to go hungry for the same cause over the next two weeks, mounting a public fast in solidarity with Canadians without a safe water supply or a secure food source.
"I will be spending a portion of each day praying in silence outside of my friend (Liberal MP) Robert-Falcon Ouellette’s office, a space that symbolizes, ultimately, who has the power to act on Bill C-262," says Heinrichs, who is using vacation days from his job as director of Indigenous relations for Mennonite Church Canada for his fast.
He invites other people of faith to join the fast, intended to pressure the federal government to pass Bill C-262, a private member’s bill calling for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also called for the implementation of UNDRIP, which ensures the basic human rights that Indigenous people need to be healthy.
A wide range of community and faith groups have already endorsed the declaration.
Public fasts have a long history of drawing attention to injustices, says Heinrichs, as well as calling on divine forces to change opinions.
"I do want God to move (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau’s heart," says Heinrichs, who began his fast Sept. 13, limiting his intake to only green tea and water.
"I long for God to move political structures in ways I can’t imagine."
Heinrichs was one of the organizers of last spring’s Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights, where dozens of Canadians from a wide variety of faith communities walked from Kitchener, Ont., to Ottawa to raise awareness about the UN declaration.
Fellow walker and activist Leah Gazan plans to join Heinrich in fasting this weekend, saying her temporary discomfort doesn’t measure up to the ongoing struggles of Indigenous communities who don’t have safe drinking water or other rights enjoyed by non-Indigenous Canadians.
"We’re talking about reconciliation, and there’s no reconciliation without justice," says Gazan, a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation.
Suderman, B. (2017, September 16). Fasting for change. Retrieved January 13, 2019, from https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/faith/fasting-for-change-444809773.html