Sunday, 19 August 2018
Environment featured Racism

Open letter: 200 researchers call on Justin Trudeau to halt the Muskrat Falls project

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax): In an open letter, released this Wednesday, 200 academic researchers are asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nalcor, to immediately stop work on the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador. The letter cites a lack of Indigenous consent, concerns about safety, and the risk of mercury poisoning as reasons for the demand.

Nova Scotians have their own textbook-colonial relationship with the project, as the province stands to benefit through the Maritime Link, yet remains blind to its complicity in the cultural genocide and the destruction of traditional lands and food sources.

To: Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, Minister of Youth

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

We are scholars and researchers writing to express our deep concern over the Muskrat Falls Dam project on Labrador’s Churchill River.

Scheduled to begin operation in 2020, the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is led by a Provincial Crown Corporation, but heavily financed by the Canadian federal government (1,2). The controversial dam was initiated in 2011 through the ‘New Dawn Agreement’. This agreement made the Innu Nation land claim agreement contingent upon their support for the dam (3), despite federal commitments to free, prior and informed consent in projects impacting Indigenous people. Muskrat Falls has since been subject to dramatic, multi-billion dollar cost overruns that threaten to bankrupt Newfoundland and Labrador, and double household energy bills in the province (4). In 2016, researchers from Harvard University raised urgent concerns about the dam’s safety and environmental impacts (5). Even the CEO of the Crown Corporation – Nalcor – has referred to the dam as a “boondoggle” based on “faulty, high-risk assumptions” that “should not have been done.” (6) Indigenous land protectors have been resisting the project (7). They have blockaded the work site and sustained a long-term ‘peace camp’ (8). Indigenous elders have been incarcerated for participating in these actions (9).

The Muskrat Falls Project poses tremendous risks to Indigenous peoples and sovereignty (10), to Canada’s commitment to reconciliation (11), to fish, wildlife and the broader integrity of the Churchill River ecology, and to provincial and federal public finances. The undersigned are concerned about methylmercury poisoning from the dam construction that threatens marine ecology, as well as the food source and economic activity of a number of Indigenous nations. We are concerned about the risk of a catastrophic dam break on the North Spur, a natural formation composed of quick clay that has never been subject to an independent engineering study. These risks are compounded by the fact that Indigenous peoples directly affected by the dam have not provided free, prior and informed consent for the project, as required by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which your government has committed to implement.

Your government has already invested $9.2 billion into the Muskrat Falls Dam project (12), yet this pales in comparison to projections which suggest that the completion of the dam could cost as much as $78 billion (13), all for a project that will bring little to no benefit and will likely result in higher electricity rates in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The project presents real and substantial social, ecological and economic risks if it proceeds on the current course. We are therefore asking your government to:

  1. Halt all work on the dam, along with Nalcor and the Province, until you have received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous peoples affected by the dam and met the conditions below.
  2. Appoint an independent inquiry into the stability of the North Spur.
  3. Implement the original recommendations of the 2016 Harvard University study and seconded by an Independent Experts Advisory Committee if the dam is to proceed, for full clearance of brush, trees, and topsoil, along with the capping of the wetlands, at the Muskrat Falls reservoir to prevent the bioaccumulation of the neurotoxin methylmercury.


Deborah Cowen, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow

Milad Parpouchi, 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Pierre Cloutier de Repentigny, 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Ottawa

Andrew Kaufman, University of Toronto, Canada

Jayne Malenfant, 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Scholar, McGill University, Canada

Professor Adelle Blackett, McGill University

  1. Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

Bonnie Campbell, Professor, Universite du Quebec a Montreal

Jane Hutton, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo, School of Architecture

Dr. James P. Nugent, University of Waterloo, Canada

Anne Meneley, Professor, Trent University

Dr Melanie Richter-Montpetit, University of Sheffield, UK

Justin Kong, Graduate Researcher, University of Toronto

Natasha Myers, Associate Professor, York University, Canada

Professor Elizabeth Littlejohn

Federico Andrade-Rivas, Population and Public Health PhD Student, University of British Columbia

Emily Gilbert, Associate Professor, Director of Canadian Studies Program, University of Toronto

Kevin Edmonds, University of Toronto

Dr. Shiri Pasternak, Ryerson University, Canada

Simon Vickers, Doctoral Candidate, University of Toronto, Canada

Anna Dion, 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, McGill University

Paul Emiljanowicz, Doctoral Candidate, McMaster University, Canada

Dr. Val Marie Johnson, Chair, Dept. of Social Justice & Community Studies, Saint Mary’s University (Mi’kma’ki)

Dr Lisa Tilley, Queen Mary, University of London

  1. Alissa Trotz, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Alec Butler, University of Toronto

Kelly Fritsch, Assistant Professor, Carleton University, Canada

Alina Sajed (Associate Professor, McMaster University)

  1. Marshall Beier, Professor, McMaster University

Rianne Mahon Professor Wilfrid Laurier University

Aytak Akbari-Dibavar, 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, York University

Calvin ZL Lincez, PhD Candidate, York University

Caren Kaplan, Professor, UC Davis, USA

Reecia Orzeck, Illinois State University, USA

Hector Agredano, Geography Instructor, Pasadena City College, USA

Michelle Caplan, phd Canadidate, university of western ontario

Dr. K. Jirgens, University of Windsor

Natalie Kouri-Towe, Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh, USA

Konstantin Kilibarda, Graduate Researcher, Global Labour Research Centre (GLRC), York University (Canada)

Tyler Carson, Rutgers University

Emily Simmonds (Métis), PhD candidate, Department of STS, York University

Ajay Parasram, Assistant Professor International Development Studies and History, Dalhousie University,

Veronika Reichert, PhD Candidate, York University

gloria matei, York University

Atiqa Hachimi, University of Toronto, Canada

Dr. Sharri Plonski, Queen Mary University of London

Laura Macdonald, Professor, Carleton University, Canada

Jason Laurendeau, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Lethbridge

James FitzGerald, PhD Candidate York University

Judy Davidson, Associate Professor, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB Canada

Sarah Naumes, Ph.D. Candidate, York University, Canada

Amanda Wilson, Assistant Professor, Saint Paul University, Canada

Alex Moldovan, PhD Student, York University

Angel Bravo, Former Visiting Assistant Professor in CSE Department at Miami University

Dr. Randolph B. Persaud, School of Int’L Service, American University, Washington DC, USA

Jody Berland, Professor, York University, Canada

Jason Edward Lewis, University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary

Mike Ekers, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

Katherine Cramer, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability UBC

Anthony W. Persaud, PhD student, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia

Angie Fazekas, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Canada

Zakia salime associate professor Rutgers

Inderpal Grewal, Professor, Yale university

Jane Stinson, Adjunct Research Professor, Institute of Political Economy, Carleton University, Canada

Omar Sirri, PhD Candidate, Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada

Arsalan Kahnemuyipor

TRINH Hong Loan, lecturer at University of Quebec in Montreal

Clara MacCallum Fraser, PhD Student, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies, CITY Institute, Canada

Aparna Mishra Tarc, Associate Professor, York University

Dr. Anna Zalik, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Canada

Mariana Valverde, Professor, University of Toronto

Jen Preston, PhD, Canada

Alison Howell, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, United States

Mark Hunter, University of Toronto

Ayden Scheim, PhD, CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow, UC San Diego

Bronwyn Frey, PhD student, University of Toronto

Maegan Miller, City University of New York, USA

Ivana Z. Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, UBC, Canada

Jen Jones, PhD Candiate, University of Guelph

Sharry Aiken, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada

Christine Nugent

Dr. Heather Kertyzia, California State Dominguez Hills, USA

Karen Bakker

Dr. Katherine Turner, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria, Canada

Peter Fitting, professor emeritus, University of Toronto

Professor Sue Ruddick University of Toronto

Natalie Zemon Davis, C.C. Professor of History, University of Toronto, Canada

Paul Manning, Professor of Anthropology, Trent University, Canada

Ayelen Liberona, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

  1. Ambros Ph.D. Uof T, Canada

James Deutsch

Donald C Cole, Professor, University of Toronto

Alejandro Paz, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

Sarah Wakefield, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Susan Antebi, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Lena Mortensen, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada

Lora Senechal Carney, Associate Prof. Emerita, University of Toronto, Canada

Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

Derek Denis, Assistant Professor, Language Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada

Chandler Davis, Professor, University of Toronto

John P. Portelli, Professor, University of Toronto

Anne McGuire, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

  1. Bollers

Agi Lukacs, Sr. Lecturer Emerita, University of Toronto

Andrea Muehlebach, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Katie Kilroy-Marac, Anthropology, University of Toronto

Suzanne Sicchia, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

Anup Grewal, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

Professor Tanya Titchkosky, Social Justice Education, OISE of the University of Toronto

Maria C Cuervo, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Dina Goergis, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Dr. Lindsay Stephens, University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada

Lake Sagaris, Laboratorio de Cambio Social, Chile

Gavin Smith, Emeritus Professor, University of Toronto

Kanishka Goonewardena, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada

Dr. Abigail B. Bakan

Leah Montange, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

Adonica Huggins, Student Life Coordinator, Academic and Peer Programs, University of Toronto, Canada

Neil Nunn, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

Dr. Maureen FitzGerald, Fellow, Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

Ben Verboom, Doctoral Candidate and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Oxford, UK

Dr. Kevin Gould, Dept of Geography, Concordia University, Montreal, QC

Ayesha S. Chaudhry, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada Research Chair and 2018 Trudeau Fellow

Farshid Baghai, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Villanova University, USA

Philip Son, MA student, University of Toronto

Laura Koltutsky, Associate Librarian University of Calgary

Sophie de Saussure, 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Ottawa

Madelaine Khan, recent MA graduate, York University

Tim K. Takaro, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Trycia Bazinet, PhD student, Vanier 2018 Scholar, Carleton University

Dr. Tammara Soma, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto

Matthew Farish, Associate Professor, Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Tricia Snell, Writer

Jesse A. Thistle, Ph.D. Candidate, Trudeau-Vanier Scholar, York University

Audra Simpson, Professor, Columbia University

Samuel Blouin, PhD candidate, Université de Montreal

Ashlin Wolf, undergraduate, Carleton University

Billy-Ray Belcourt, 2018 PETF Scholar, University of Alberta

Ken MacDonald, University of Toronto

Dr. Erika Bockstael, 2014 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Manitoba

Nickie Van Lier, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

Rumee Ahmed, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia

T.L Cowan, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information & Department of Arts, Culture & Media, University of Toronto

Tamara Vukov, Professeure Adjointe, Université de Montreal

Dr. Heather Igloliorte, Associate Professor, Concordia University

Elizabeth Johnson, Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography, Durham University, UK

Dr. Oscar Garza, UDLAP (Mexico)

Nakanyike Musisi, Associate Professor

Bryan Dale, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

Krista Maxwell, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Ju Hui Judy Han, Assistant Professor, UCLA, US

Patrick Vitale, Assistant Professor, Eastern Connecticut State University, USA

Dr. Martine August, University of Waterloo, Canada

Kevin Bruyneel, Professor of Politics, MA, US

Suzanne, Mills, Associate Professor, McMaster University

Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University

Nick Estes (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe), Assistant Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico, USA

Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Victoria

Robert Nichols, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota

Jaskiran Dhillon, Associate Professor Global Studies and Anthropology, The New School, USA

Andrea Marston, PhD candidate, UC Berkeley, USA

Zoe Meletis, Associate Professor of Geography, UNBC, Canada

V.K.Preston, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Sheehan Moore, PhD student, CUNY Graduate Center

Sandy Grande, Professor Education, Connecticut College

Danika Medak-Saltzman Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

Nathan Lemphers, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto; Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholar

Tarren Andrews, Ph.D. Student, CU Boulder, Colorado, USA

Jessica Cattelino, Department of Anthropology, UCLA

Nhung Tuyet Tran, University of Toronto

Nicole Power, PhD, Associate Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Mishuana Goeman, Associate Prof, UCLA Chair of AIS, Associate Director of AISC

Lindy Van Vliet, PhD Candidate, Carleton University

Amira Mittermaier, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Glen Coulthard, UBC First Nations and Indigenous Studies

Joanne L. Rondilla, Assistant Professor, San Jose State University, United States of America

Sarah Mason-Case, SJD Candidate University of Toronto Faculty of Law; Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar

Annie Booth, Professor, University of Northern British Columbia

Michelle Raheja, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside

Dr. Amelia Fay, Curator, Manitoba Museum, Canada

Shari Huhndorf, Professor, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Prof Emerita Patricia Penn Hilden

Tahnee Prior, Ph.D. Candidate and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Waterloo, Canada

Anne Spice, PhD candidate, CUNY Graduate Center

Alexis Mitchell, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Canada

Rebecca Sutton, PhD Candidate, London School of Economics

Margaux L Kristjansson, PhD Candidate, Columbia University

Bailey Gerrits, 2015 PETF Scholar, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University

Margaret Little, Sir Edward Peacock Chair in Gender and Politics, Queen’s University

Zannah Matson, PhD Student, University of Toronto

Elaine Power, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Queen’s University, Canada

Daisy Raphael, 2013 Vanier Scholar, PhD Candidate University of Alberta

Marin Ingalise Beck, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University

Daniel Voth, Assistant Professor, University of Calgary, Department of Political Science

Chris White, PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University Renewable Energy Storage Laboratory, Halifax, Canada

Celia Romulus. PhD candidate, Queen’s University, Canada

Denise Réaume, Professor of Law, University of Toronto, Canada

Ken Derry, Associate Professor (Teaching Stream), University of Toronto

Éloïse Décoste, PhD Candidate, Faculte de Science Politique et de droit, Universite du Quebec a  Montreal (UQAM)

Eleanor MacDonald, Associate Professor, Queen’s University, Canada

Laure Muller, MAS Candidate, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, US

Dana Decent, University of Waterloo, Canada

Rebecca Comay, Professor, University of Toronto

Jordan B. Kinder, PhD Candidate, University of Alberta, Canada

Lib Spry, PhD candidate Cultural Studies, Queens University

Michael Laurentius, PhD Candidate, York University (Toronto)

Adam Lewis, PhD Candidate, York University, ‘Canada’

Alan Sears, Professor, Sociology, Ryerson University

Teresa Hubel, Professor, Huron University College

Clayton Dasilva, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo

Raphoz Marie, UQAM University

Stephane G. Marceau, professeure adjointe, Centre Urbanisation Culture Société, INRS








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