KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Hydroelectric power set to flow from Muskrat Falls in Labrador to Nova Scotia through the Maritime Link sometime in 2018 is supposed to be clean, green and a good thing all around. As indigenous Labrador land defenders and their allies continue to remind us, for the people who live there Muskrat Falls is an environmental disaster that will poison traditional food sources and flood indigenous lands.
Unfortunately it appears even many progressive Nova Scotians prefer to look the other way.
Independent researchers from Harvard University, Memorial University in St. John’s, and the University of Manitoba raised the alarm about the accumulation of methylmercury downstream from the Muskrat Falls development several years ago.
The new research establishes that some residents who lead traditional lifestyle may experience an increase in methylmercury exposure of up to 1500% following reservoir flooding. And 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.
As mega projects go, Muskrat Falls is also a real mess, with huge budget overruns, and a heavy-handed police force and judicial system so eager to silence protests that even journalists aren’t safe anymore, witness the arrest order earlier this year for Justin Brake, who writes for the Newfoundland and Labrador Independent.
More recently Beatrice Hunter, an Inuk land defender who refused to promise a judge that she would not engage in further protests at Muskrat Falls was incarcerated in an overpopulated men’s prison in St. John’s.
Now three Inuit water protectors, 71-year old Elder Jim Learning, Marjorie Flowers, and Eldred Davis, are being held in a prison in St. John’s, NL, 1,500 km away from their homes. Their crime – refusing to sign an undertaking to stay away from the construction site for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
“Why is it that, when Indigenous peoples are involved in a protest, such extreme and unnecessary measures are taken by the justice system? Almost to a case this only happens when there is an indigenous protest,” asks Todd Russell, president of the Nunatukavut Community Council (NCC) in a press release issued earlier this week.
Nova Scotians continue to look the other way, and Nova Scotia media by and large remain silent on what transpires in this remote and sparsely populated part of Canada.
Sadly that includes progressive people who should know better.
Recently one of Nova Scotia’s NDP MLAs published an opinion piece in the Local Xpress, singing the praises of both its Environmental Bill of Rights, legislation it proposed this April, and the Muskrat Falls deal it signed when in power. But not a word about the damage the Muskrat Falls project inflicts.
Funny thing is, if Newfoundland and Labrador had an Environmental Bill of Rights along the line of what the Nova Scotia NDP is proposing it probably would never have been allowed to be built.
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