May 7, 2018
K’JIPUKTUK/HALIFAX – Nova Scotians gathered today at the downtown headquarters of Emera Inc. to join in a national day of action opposing the controversial Muskrat Falls mega-dam in Labrador.
“It’s not just about this project, but these megaprojects keep getting approved without Free, Prior and Informed consent as outlined by the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples and putting local communities including Indigenous lives and our cultures at risk, says Billy Lewis, urban Mi’kmaq elder.
“The delayed and over-budget hydro project has faced widespread criticism for threatening the health, safety, and traditional lifestyle of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples living on the unsurrendered lands of the Innu and Inuit downstream,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director with Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “Local residents have long called for the Newfoundland and Labrador government and their Crown energy corporation, Nalcor, to protect them from the potentially devastating consequences of damming Muskrat Falls – some are calling for a complete shutdown of the project.”
Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians, who has been supporting the Labrador Land Protector’s work, points to the concerns being raised by the opponents in Labrador. “The methylmercury contamination of the downstream aquatic food supply expected to occur if the reservoir is not sufficiently cleared, as well as the stability of the North Spur (the natural landform making up most of the Muskrat Falls dam), which has been called into question by a world-leading expert, are major concerns for the community. Many feel there is no way to sufficiently mitigate the risks and want the project shut down entirely.”
Chris White of Solidarity Halifax believes Nova Scotians have a moral obligation to demand that the people downstream of Muskrat Falls be taken care of before the project can go online. “What many people may not realize is that Muskrat Falls was sitting on the shelf for decades until Nova Scotia agreed to partner on the project” says White. “This allowed Nalcor to bypass unfavorable negotiations with Quebec and instead sell electricity to mainland markets via the Maritime Link, contributed by Emera. Now Muskrat Falls is a humanitarian crisis waiting to happen, and we in Nova Scotia are set to consume between 20% and 60% of the generated electricity. That means Nova Scotia residents could become the primary beneficiaries in a case of cultural genocide and environmental racism, and we cannot be OK with this.”
Since the federal government is backing Muskrat Falls with a $9.2 billion loan guarantee, the land protectors have brought their struggle to Parliament Hill to test the government’s commitment to reconciliation. Supporting groups in Goose Bay, St. John’s, Halifax, Mississauga, and Winnipeg have answered the call for public displays of solidarity.
“At Solidarity Halifax we believe that in discussing issues like Muskrat Falls, capitalism has to be named as a root cause” adds White. “While the rules of capitalism will tell Emera and Steven McNeil that delaying Muskrat Falls for further risk mitigation will cost them return on investment, we compel them to put people over profit, own up to their complicity in this mess, and pressure their counterparts in Newfoundland and Labrador to do whatever is necessary to protect the rights and lives of those downstream from Muskrat Falls.”
For more information, please contact:
Angela Giles,The Council of Canadians – 902.478.5727
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Sierra Club Canada Foundation – 902.444.7096
Chris White, Solidarity Halifax – 902.229.3168
Organized in a joint effort between the Council of Canadians, Solidarity Halifax, Sierra Club, Ecology Action Centre, and other concerned individuals.