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St. John’s chapter cautious about Muskrat Falls deal

Muskrat Falls – then and now.

The Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter has expressed caution about the recently negotiated Muskrat Falls deal.

Chapter activist Ken Kavanagh says, “While I fully support and gratefully thank both the land protectors and the Indigenous leaders who likely brokered the best deal they could, there are still many doubts, questions and concerns. While I would describe the final deal as useful, progress and hopeful, I’m not ready to call it a victory yet.”

He notes, “Clearly, the two biggest positives are three heroes are no longer on the hunger strike and the potentially dangerous standoff at the Muskrat Falls site has been deescalated.”

Labrador Inuk artist Billy Gauthier, Delilah Saunders and Jerry Kohlmeister had been on a hunger strike to draw attention to the Muskrat Falls project. Gauthier, who lost 21 pounds during his hunger strike, had said he would be willing to die if that’s what it took to get the Muskrat Falls dam done right. In addition, last week about 50 people made their way past the main gate at the Muskrat Falls construction site and walked the 12 kilometres to the work camps where they established an occupation in an effort to stop the imminent flooding of the reservoir for the dam.

Earlier this week, CBC reported, “After a marathon, 12-hour meeting that stretched well into Wednesday morning, [Newfoundland and Labrador premier Dwight] Ball and leaders from Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut and the Innu Nation emerged with a deal that calls for more independent oversight of the environmental impacts of the Muskrat Falls project.”

The Canadian Press reports, “Ball announced that an independent expert advisory committee — made up of provincial, federal, municipal and indigenous groups — will be created to monitor the [dam] and look at ways to reduce possible methylmercury contamination. The provincial government also is agreeing to consider further clearing of the Muskrat Falls reservoir if needed. Todd Russell, the president of the NunatuKavut Community Council, said he is confident the agreed proposal will minimize the affects of methylmercury and secure his community’s food and culture.”

The Telegram reported, “Just under 45 protesters who had occupied the Muskrat Falls workers quarters on Oct. 22 walked out on Oct. 26, despite still having concerns over the flooding of the reservoir.”

Land defender Marjorie Flowers says, “There’s some questions, there’s some anxieties, there’s some concerns. Personally, I think it boils down to trust and deceptions that have happened with Nalcor to date. People need to see it unfold as it is promised and signed off on from the conference last night before we can say we’re very pleased.” And Innu activist Bart Jack says, “We’re not sure of what we are agreeing to, we are not sure how productive it will be, we’re not sure how it’s going to end up. There’s a lot of questions in the future that need to be answered.”

Kavanagh echoes those concerns, “Several problematic issues related to the project remain and whether the methylmercury issue is resolved is dependent on the devil that might be in the details of this agreement and on the real sincerity of the Ball Government. I have doubts about both!”

He also highlights, “During the past few days while the people of Labrador (and Newfoundland too) stood up to the Muskrat Falls project, the people of Wallonia stood up to the CETA trade deal. Both were David versus Goliath battles. I’m not sure if many of us can comprehend the monumental political and corporate forces that came to bear on those who ‘spoke truth to power!’ People claimed that Walloons were said to be holding up democracy when they were really exercising it! Indigenous Labradoreans were said to be looking for money when they were simply looking to protect their health.”

And Kavanagh concludes, “In both cases, people’s courageous efforts produced some positive results but the battle must continue in order to be truly victorious. Power to the people.”

#MakeMuskratRight #StopCETA