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Council of Canadians expresses solidarity with Innu Elder’s resistance to Muskrat Falls dam project

Photo by Denise Cole.

The Council of Canadians expresses solidarity with Innu Elder Tshaukuesh (Elizabeth) Penashue and her resistance to the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric dam project.

The Independent reports, “On Thursday the respected Innu Elder from Sheshatshiu First Nation embarked on a 10 km walk from the Goose Bay–Cartwright junction along the Trans-Labrador Highway to the main gate of the Muskrat Falls hydro project site. Joined by supporters and land protectors, upon arriving at the government-designated protest area adjacent to the Muskrat Falls entrance Penashue set up a tent, where she plans to spend at least the next few days.”

Penashue spoke via Skype to those assembled at the Council of Canadians annual conference in St. John’s this past October. She spoke about the importance of preserving nutshimit (the country), of which Muskrat Falls is a significant part. She has said unhindered access to the land and water is a fundamental part of the Innu culture. The dam would flood 41 square kilometres of the nutshimit.

Seven months later, she says, “I feel so sad about Muskrat Falls, and Muskrat Falls is not finished yet. There’s too many problems, all kinds of problems. …Water is going to die. What’s going to happen to the animals? What’s going to happen to our medicine on the ground? And what’s going to happen to my people — young children?”

On April 2, the Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter supported a fundraiser for land protectors arrested protesting against the dam. In March, the RCMP announced 58 criminal charges against 27 mostly Indigenous land protectors who blockaded and then occupied the Muskrat Falls site in October 2016.

On May 9, the St. John’s chapter was present outside the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature when in solidarity when the Grand Riverkeeper Labrador and Labrador Land Protectors delivered their petition signed by over 1,000 Labradorians to demand an independent review of the North Spur, a jut of rock in the Churchill River that will take the full weight of the reservoir that will be created by the dam.

The Muskrat Falls hydro-electric dam project would see two large dams on the lower Churchill River in Labrador. The dams are being built on Innu territory, but the Inuit also claim part of the lands that would be affected by the project as their traditional territory. In 2012, the federal government removed federal oversight of the Churchill River in their Navigation Protection Act.

The Council of Canadians has been raising concerns about this project since November 2012 and will continue to do so.

The dam is expected to be operational by 2019-20.