Statement: A failure of leadership

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy has issued the following statement regarding the incarceration of Labrador Land Protectors at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary:

The recent incarceration of three Labrador Land Protectors is a reflection not on our criminal justice system but on the political leadership in our province.

These three people are not dangerous criminals. They are Inuit elders who believe so strongly in protecting the environment and public safety in the land they call home that they were willing to go to jail to do so.

Jailing elders does not in any way address the environment, economic or health and safety problems associated with the Muskrat Falls project.

This did not need to happen. That it did speaks to the “Nalcor knows best” philosophy that has gripped both the current and previous provincial governments, and to the lack of meaningful commitment on the part of the provincial government to the nation-to-nation relationship model.

The three demands at the root of the Labrador Land Protectors’ recent protest action are clear and reasonable.

They’re demanding an independent expert review of the stability (or otherwise) of the North Spur. Who amongst us would not demand answers when a number of experts have identified serious risks to safety and wellbeing? This concern has only been amplified by the recent unprecedented flooding that caused such devastation in Mud Lake.

The Land Protectors want action on the expert advisory committee on methylmercury that the Premier promised at his marathon meeting with indigenous leaders last fall. When the Premier of the province makes such a high-profile public commitment affecting the public health of citizens and communities, it is not unreasonable to expect prompt action.

The third demand of the Labrador Land Protectors is for a public inquiry and forensic audit of Nalcor. Many have called for this, including myself as leader of the New Democratic Party. The Liberals say vaguely that it might happen someday, but their plan to wait until the Muskrat Falls project is completed is a total failure of leadership. The Liberal claim that an audit would unduly disrupt project completion is nonsense. The urgency of the situation demands timely action.

We should all be concerned that these three elders are in jail because they don’t see the political leaders of our province acting to protect the Labrador environment and the health and safety of Labradorians.

The elders deserve the support of all citizens of our province, and they deserve the immediate attention of the provincial government to their eminently reasonable demands.

Government must:

•        Agree to, and move quickly to establish, an independent expert review of stability issues associated with the North Spur;

•        Move quickly to implement the agreement reached with aboriginal leaders last October on methylmercury contamination of the food chain; and

•        Move now to establish an inquiry, including a forensic audit, on all aspects of the Muskrat Falls project.

The provincial government purports to support the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These assurances look pretty hollow when measured against this complete failure to show decisive leadership in the face of serious and legitimate concerns from Indigenous people.

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