KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) -This weekend’s documentary follows a group of women from Nova Scotia as they travel to the site of the new hydroelectric installation at Muskrat Falls in Labrador.
The travelers include anti-racism activist Lynn Jones, Catherine Abreu of the Ecology Action Centre, Sheila Francis of Pictou Landing First Nation, Michelle Cohen of CUPE, and several others.
With Labradorian women as their guides, the Nova Scotians come to understand the heavy toll this dam is taking on the local environment, economy, and social fabric.
Marginalized and excluded from many of the benefits that the the huge development project brings to the area, it’s a price that to a large extent is paid by women.
It’s a heavy toll. We learn about the loss of tradition, the loss of lands where people used to hunt, fish and pick berries. An influx of construction workers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay pushes up rents and puts homes out of reach of the local population. Homelessness, unheard of before, is becoming an increasingly common occurrence.
Poor and marginalized people in Nova Scotia will bear the brunt of rising power rates to pay for the new energy source in our province. Proportionally, most of those struggling to make ends meet will be women.
The trip that is documented here was organized by the Feminist Northern Network (FemNorthNet), a coalition of researchers and Northern community members who want to bring positive change to their communities. The documentary was produced by Mi’kmaq filmmaker Catherine Martin.
Here in Nova Scotia we think by and large that the Maritime Link is a good thing. For the sake of the planet our province needs to move away from using coal to generate electricity, and Muskrat Falls will allow us to do so.
What’s more, as Catherine Abreu points out in the documentary, the coal we currently burn comes from places like Colombia, and is often directly linked to the most vile human rights violations.
But things are seldom simple. Rather than looking away we should face that reality and try to make the necessary repairs.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Gail Blaikie, one of the researchers featured in the documentary. Blaikie grew up in Labrador where her Inuit grandfather trapped along the Churchill River in Central Labrador.
In the interview Blaikie raises the notion of fair and ethical trade. Just as we worry about the origins of our coffee and sweatshop-free t-shirts, maybe we should think hard about the Maritime Link as well, she suggests.
“I always wonder why that compassionate sense of obligation towards communities impacted by an economic activity is not extended to our own backyard,” said Blaikie.
“That notion of clean energy that comes from the North that is empty anyways, that is a colonial idea. It’s not empty, it is people’s home.”
- The true cost of Muskrat Falls. Methylmercury and environmental racism.
- Fair trade and the Maritime Link. An interview with Deborah Stienstra of FemNorthNet.