People living in communities around the flood zone and downstream from Muskrat Falls have been informed that water levels will begin to rise to fill the reservoir starting this coming Tuesday, August 7th. This impoundment will start despite the recommendations from the Independent Expert Advisory Committee (IEAC) from April 2018 that included a call for the topsoil to be removed and the wetlands capped to limit the impact of methylmercury in downstream waterways and food system, which has not yet happened.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government under Premier Dwight Ball had set aside $30 million to make this happen, but are now saying they’ve run out of time. The government believes offering a paltry few million dollars to somehow “compensate” for the destruction of a way of life that has existed since time immemorial is a most inappropriate and insulting gesture. Grassroots opposition, through groups like the Labrador Land Protectors and the Grand Riverkeeper – Labrador have been vocally opposed for years, with heightened activity in October 2016 with scores of people arrested, a peaceful occupation of the workers camp at the Muskrat Falls work site, and a hunger strike that led to meetings with Federal and Provincial leaders (and ultimately to the forming of the IEAC).
The Federal government of Justin Trudeau does not walk away from this with clean hands either. They contributed a loan guarantee to the tune of $9.2 million, and could stop it from going ahead if the political will existed. Indeed, the United Nations specifically called on Ottawa as the single largest investor in the project to use its leverage to stop the release of methylmercury, but a government that says it honours a rules-based order continues to violate every rule in the book with respect to Muskrat Falls. Respect for Indigenous rights only happens when convenient.
That said, there will be a Federal Election on or before October 22nd, and with momentum gaining steam in support of a Green New Deal, parties will need to reconcile their positions on Indigenous rights and environmental justice to win the votes.
Opposition remains strong but people on the ground are losing hope. Please take the time to show your solidarity by doing one or all of the actions below:
Sign up to participate in the chain fast by picking a day or series of days to fast. During those days, organizers ask that you take a selfie and post why you’re doing it on social media, email the Prime Minister and others connected to this scandal, and a few other actions (more information and how to sign up here)
Sign the petition: Stop Methylmercury Poisoning of Indigenous People at Muskrat Falls
Read more, like this great rabble piece by ally Matthew Behrens of the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition, linking Muskrat Falls to larger issues of Indigenous rights, UNDRIP and the toxic divide.
And the flooding of the reservoir is not the end. We will watch and hope that the North Spur does not collapse as predicted. Those arrested still need people to contribute to their legal fund.
Muskrat Falls is also part of a larger project on the Lower Churchill River; phase 2 is called Gull Island. Watch for more on this soon.