KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Beatrice Hunter is an Inuk land defender who refused to promise a judge that she would not engage in further protests at Muskrat Falls. Because of that refusal she is now incarcerated in an overpopulated men’s prison in St. John’s, more than 1,000 kilometers from home.
Hunter was arrested after she protested outside the gate of Muskrat Falls project in Labrador on May 23, breaking an earlier injunction to stay away from the project. That injunction came after she took part in the occupation of the Muskrat Falls workers’ camp last fall.
“I felt like I was being bullied into a corner because of what I believe,” she told The Independent’s Justin Brake over the phone Friday. “I felt pressured in a corner and I was like, ‘No, you can’t do this! You can’t tell me where I can go and where I can’t go! I haven’t done anything wrong. I am a law-abiding citizen.”
Hunter said her decision to remain in prison and not comply with the order to stay away from Muskrat Falls is her way of resisting colonization in Labrador.
“I realized, after a lot of thought, which I now have time to do, that my part to play in this fight for Labrador lives is to not only show how fearless we are, but to invade their colonist system on their land,” she said.
Hunter struggled throughout her statement, crying as she delivered her message, Brake reported.
Innu and Inuit residents who lead traditional lifestyle are worried about an increase in methylmercury exposure of up to 1500% following reservoir flooding. Academic research has established that almost half the community will exceed the Health Canada guideline for methylmercury exposure.
Methylmercury is a dangerous poison that can cause neurological impairment in developing brains, particularly in cognitive thinking, attention, and memory
Hunter was moved to the men’s prison in St John’s, far away from her family and support system, because women’s facilities in Labrador are full.
The latest protest occurred in response to the flooding and devastation of Mud Lake, a remote community on the south shore of the Lower Churchill River, triggering an emergency evacuation. Many are blaming Muskrat Falls-related construction for the flooding.
Nova Scotia, via the Maritime Link, stands to benefit from the Muskrat Falls project, as it decreases our dependence on coal-generated electricity. But Nova Scotia media have been silent on the downstream impact of the project and on the protests.
The Independent, a Newfoundland and Labrador online publication, has been providing extensive coverage of the indigenous resistance to Muskrat Falls and the incarceration of Beatrice Hunter.