Environment featured Racism

Nova Scotia groups call for release of Muskrat Falls land protectors

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Muskrat Falls hydro power development may be far away in Labrador, but it is very much Nova Scotia’s business. That was the message delivered by speakers at a news conference held outside the Emera / Nova Scotia Power offices on Lower Water Street in downtown Halifax this morning.

Nova Scotia is implicated in the devastation caused by the hydro power development near Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador through the Maritime Link, members of the ad hoc coalition argued.

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Hydroelectric power, set to flow from Muskrat Falls to Nova Scotia sometime in 2018, continues to be presented as clean, green and a good thing all around, but that’s not how people in Labrador experience it.  

Michelle Paul, a Mi’kmaw water protector, read a statement of solidarity on behalf of individual treaty rights holders in Nova Scotia.

What we are seeing is massive destruction and genocide for profit. The crown corporation Nalcor is giving itself the legal authority to commit genocide using water as a vehicle for devastation. Once they drown the landscape, methylmercury poisoning is inevitable.  We are talking mass genocide, medicines and all living species. Lives will be lost,” said Paul.

This loss of land, fear that existing communities will be flooded and that methylmercury will cause the loss of traditional food sources has caused indigenous resistance to the megaproject to intensify in Labrador. Nalcor, the developer of Muskrat Falls,and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, have in turn come down hard on the land protectors and journalists.

Not that long ago  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, like Hunter’s  – refusing to sign an undertaking to stay away from the construction site for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

We as Solidarity Halifax share the outrage at the arrest and colonial mistreatment of these Inuit elders engaging in their right to challenge the ongoing construction of the Muskrat Falls development by civil disobedience,” said Jackie Barkley.

“Solidarity Halifax has been engaged in coalition with others in support of the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia in their resistance to the development of Alton Gas, and in recognition of the fact that they have never ceded their land to settler governments,” Barkley said.  “The use of power of the Canadian State and the use of a crown corporation to silence the voices of these three elders demonstrates the ongoing `capitalist phase of aggressive use of land and development without proper consultation and respect for indigenous peoples.”

Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Atlantic Canada Chapter of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, has been fighting the Muskrat Falls development right from the beginning.

“Our organization participated in the environmental assessment, and from the very start we were concerned about the lack of information and due diligence by Nalcor, and about the lack of adherence by Canada to the duty to consult with indigenous peoples who will be impacted by this project,” Fitzgerald said.

Angela Giles, an organizer with the Council of Canadians, did not think it was too late in the game to call for the cancellation of the project.

“The question is, what is more important, human life or energy and money. They should have consulted much earlier in the process, but we are where we are. That does not change the fact that human lives are more important than money,” said Giles.

SImilarly, Giles didn’t buy the argument that local damage exerted by Muskrat Falls is a lesser evil, since hydropower is renewable and allows Nova Scotia to meet its clean energy targets.

“When the development of these mega projects puts people’s lives at risk, and interferes with people’s ability to feed themselves in traditional ways then it is not worth it. There are other options for renewable energy that we should be looking at more seriously, rather than put people’s lives at risk,” said Giles.

People are encouraged to contact premier Stephen McNeil, premier@novascotia.ca, (902) 424-6600, and Emera CEO Chris Huskilson (902) 428-6060.

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