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Court order issued for arrest of land protectors, journalist

By: | October 25, 2016

Court order includes Independent editor Justin Brake.

Independent editor Justin Brake has been on the ground in Labrador for more than a month covering the Indigenous-led resistance to the Muskrat Falls hydro mega project, which is projected to poison traditional sources of food for Innu and Inuit communities living downstream and threaten Indigenous Peoples' ability to practice cultural customs central to their identity as Indigenous Peoples. Photo by Janet Cooper.

A court order has been issued for the arrest and removal of Indigenous and other Labradorian land protectors currently occupying the Muskrat Falls site. The order, issued by the court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay at the request of Nalcor Energy, names 22 people, including Independent editor Justin Brake.

Among others named in the order are Innu Elder David Nuke and Anglican minister Doreen Davis-Ward.

Brake has been covering Muskrat Falls since 2012, and has been on the ground for the past month in Labrador covering the growing Indigenous-led resistance to the hydro mega project, which is projected to poison traditional sources of food for Innu and Inuit communities living downstream and threaten Indigenous Peoples’ ability to practice cultural customs central to their identity as Indigenous Peoples. He’s the only reporter who has been on-site in the occupied Muskrat Falls camp.

“When the court order was served I was quite shocked to see my name on there,” said Brake when reached by phone at the Muskrat Falls site. “I couldn’t have imagined that in 2016 a crown energy corporation would come down so heavy-handed as to infringe on the constitutionally protected right of freedom of the press.

“On Saturday there was a rally at the main gate for the Muskrat Falls project, and all of the sudden the bolt was cut on the front gate and about 60 people entered. I knew at that moment without hesitation that it was a story that needed to be told, whatever was about to unfold. People in Labrador have been resisting this project increasingly in recent weeks and months and up to that point the Muskrat Falls narrative as presented by media had largely omitted the human rights and Indigenous rights story that was unfolding. With members of all three Indigenous groups as well as settler Labradorians storming through the gates I knew this was a historical moment in Labrador’s history, and regardless of whether or not Nalcor wanted that story to be told I had an obligation as a journalist to follow them and tell that story.

“In the four days that I was embedded with the land protectors at the Muskrat Falls camp I’ve been able to tell a part of the story that is crucial to any full understanding of the impact that Muskrat Falls will have on the people of our province.

“In deciding to go through the gates and stay with the land protectors at the camp—most of them Indigenous people—I was also fulfilling The Independent’s obligation to respond to the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, which identify a role for media and journalists in reconciliation. That involves telling important stories of Indigenous struggles and providing news coverage and information resources on issues of concern to Indigenous Peoples, as well as all Canadians.”

After consulting lawyers and journalists’ rights organizations, and “hours” of deliberation, Brake decided to leave the Muskrat Falls camp in order to be able to continue covering the story. His final broadcast before beginning the 11 kilometre trek out of the camp was viewed by thousands online.

“Another very important [consideration], perhaps the most, is that I’m able to continue covering this story of the land protectors, and I can do that much better from outside the front gates of Muskrat Falls than I can from a prison cell,” said Brake in his final live-cast.

Prior to becoming editor of The Independent in 2012, Brake’s previous work took him to Haiti, Darfur, and other parts of Canada.

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