July 26, 2017
McCurdy says Premier must act on Muskrat Falls protest situation
NDP Leader Earle McCurdy says the situation with Muskrat Falls protestors will continue to escalate unless the provincial government takes decisive action. McCurdy has written to Premier Dwight Ball urging him to show leadership on the issue immediately.
Crown corporation Nalcor requested and received an injunction in 2016 against protesters at the Muskrat Falls site. The court order restricts demonstrators from protesting. If they do, they can be considered in contempt of court and subject to penalties; the penalties are stronger with each infraction. Currently, three Inuit elders are imprisoned in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary because they have said they can not agree to abide by the court order not to protest.
McCurdy says Nalcor can ask for the injunction to be withdrawn and the premier can tell Nalcor to do exactly that.
"Your government is the only entity that can do anything to stop the escalation and worsening of the situation, and I urge you to do so immediately,” McCurdy’s letter says.
McCurdy also says the Premier, as Minister Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, has the duty to sit down with Indigenous leaders and the power to grant the requests that are at the root of the protests: that an inquiry including a forensic audit be held, that an independent assessment of the stability of the North Spur be commissioned, and that the premier continue face-to-face meetings with Indigenous leaders.
“It is absolutely incumbent on you as Premier and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to address the legitimate concerns of the Labrador Land Protectors,” he says in the letter.
“You must take all possible steps to prevent protest action from escalating.”
The Text of the letter follows:
Hon. Dwight Ball
Premier, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
St. John’s, NL
July 26, 2017
Dear Premier Ball:
The ongoing incarceration of three Inuit elders who have been protesting against the Muskrat Falls project and its potential impact on the environment and the health and safety of people who live downstream from the project is a matter of great concern.
I realize that you cannot intervene in the judicial process that incarcerated these elders, but that process does not absolve you of the responsibilities of leadership. It is absolutely incumbent on you as Premier and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to address the legitimate concerns of the Labrador Land Protectors. Those concerns have led to these elders taking the extreme step of going to jail to defend their principles. You must take all possible steps to prevent protest action from escalating.
The demands at the root of the recent protest action are both clear and reasonable.
Prompt action to implement the agreement you reached with indigenous leaders last fall, commencing a forensic audit into the project, and commissioning an independent expert review of the stability (or otherwise) of the North Spur would de-escalate the current situation, and would be in keeping with the spirit of reconciliation.
James Learning, Marjorie Flowers and Eldred Davis have not been charged with a criminal offence. Their protest action has been peaceful. They are standing up for what they fundamentally believe in – a healthy environment and protecting the health and safety of the people who live downstream from the hydro dam.
The court injunction which Nalcor – a provincial Crown Corporation – requested from the Court is heavy-handed, and has created a punishment which is totally out of proportion to the protest actions in which these people were engaged.
You, as leader of government, have a responsibility to take clear action to de-escalate the situation, and prevent it from getting worse. I request that you meet face-to-face with indigenous leaders as you did last fall to address the concerns that triggered the most recent protest actions. I further request that you direct Nalcor management to immediately apply to vacate their injunction; this latter step will go far to de-escalate the situation with the courts and will reflect a real commitment to reconciliation.
Your government is the only entity that can do anything to stop the escalation and worsening of the situation, and I urge you to do so immediately.