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January 20, 2001

Youth breaks off protest with pizza slice

'Accomplished all I can,' by hunger strike

Rebecca Eckler
National Post

Todd Korol, National Post
Clayton Giles ends his protest against divorce court custody rulings as he samples his first food of this year.

CALGARY - A Calgary boy yesterday ended a 19-day hunger strike launched as a protest against how children are treated by the courts in divorce cases.

Clayton Giles, 14, has lost 15 pounds since New Year's Day.

Clayton wants to live with his father, Eric, instead of his mother, Marnie Harrison, who has sole custody.

At 1 p.m., with a slice of pizza from a takeout hut in a nearby parking lot, he ended his protest outside the Calgary courthouse.

"I figured a hunger strike was the fastest way to get the court to apologize for the past 10 years. And to raise awareness that kids have the right to pick which parent they want to live with," he said.

"I ended the hunger strike because I think I've accomplished all I can. I wouldn't recommend other kids do this.

"A lot just wouldn't think of it."

Clayton's parents separated in 1990, when he was three, and divorced in 1992. He has been with his father for the past year.

He said he has run away from his mother three times since he was 12. When pressed, he said he didn't like his mother's "too many stupid rules," one of which was that he could only sleep over at a friend's on Friday nights.

He rarely communicates with his mother, who also lives in Calgary. When he does, it's by e-mail. His 12-year-old sister lives with his mother and visits every other weekend.

He did not attend school during the hunger strike, but received class assignments via fax.

"I'm going back on Monday. I'm not excited. But some of my classmates say I'll have more respect."

Clayton, who now weighs 150 pounds, doesn't look emancipated and admitted he was "pretty fat" before the strike.

However, he looked pale and had a hard time concentrating for more than a couple of minutes. A polite boy with light green eyes and a scattering of pimples around his mouth, Clayton added, "I just find I get really cold and tired now, but that's about it."

His favourite foods include steak, while watching Monday night wrestling, pizza and chicken wings, covered in Louisiana hot sauce.

Clayton said his father has promised him a personal trainer, now that the strike is over, so that he can keep the weight off, and to prepare him for his mission to walk and bike to Ottawa this spring. Along the way, he plans to collect stories of kids going through divorce to present to the Prime Minister. He wants to continue on to Washington to present similar stories to the President.

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