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Land protectors occupy government office, demand Muskrat Falls be “shut down”

By: | January 9, 2017

“We will take the actions necessary to ensure the continuation of our people and environment for many generations.”

About 20 Labrador Land Protectors occupied the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Monday morning. Photo by Mike Hynes.

A group of about 20 Labrador Land Protectors temporarily occupied the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Monday to demand the Muskrat Falls hydro project be shut down.

The project is currently under construction, behind schedule, over cost, and projected to threaten the local food supply for nearby Innu and Inuit communities.

The land protectors also called for Premier Dwight Ball to resign as minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, and for the resignation of Lake Melville MHA and Environment Minister Perry Trimper.

“This has gone on far too long. Muskrat Falls is a threat to the health and safety of Labradorians. It is crippling the economy of the entire province. Environmentally, the costs to our land and water far outweigh any gains,” NunatuKavut Elder Jim Learning announced outside the government office, reading from a written statement on behalf the Labrador Land Protectors. “This boondoggle of a project hurts every single person in Newfoundland and Labrador. We demand you to shut it down.”

Land Protectors George Cabot and Denise Cole were among those who occupied the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Monday morning. Photo by Mike Hynes.

Land Protectors George Cabot and Denise Cole were among those who occupied the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Monday morning. Photo by Mike Hynes.

Learning also stated in what the land protectors are regarding as a 2017 “Call to Action” that they are “strong and…determined” and are “putting all levels and types of governments and Nalcor on notice.

“We will take the actions necessary to ensure the continuation of our people and environment for many generations. If you do not, make no mistake, we will shut Muskrat down!”

The group then entered the office, where they announced their demands to staff.

Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Communications Manager Val Oliver told The Independent by phone moments after the occupation began that the government is following a “normal process” in assessing how to respond to the act of peaceful civil disobedience.

Land Protector Denise Cole said governments that say they want to “build nation to nation relationships with Indigenous people can’t do so if they don’t listen to Indigenous people.”

According to Land Protector Amy Norman Assistant Deputy Minister for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Ron Bowles informed the group about three hours after the protest began that the decision was made to keep the office open.

The protectors discussed their next steps and decided to leave for the day, Norman explained, adding there is “more action planned for later this week,” though specifics are not being made known to the public.

Here is the full statement from the Labrador Land Protectors:

We are the Labrador Land Protectors. We are a group of concerned citizens fighting against the development of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject. We are a diverse group and we come from all walks of life. We all bring different experiences, perspectives, and opinions. We are Innu. We are Inuit. We are Metis. We are Settlers. We are Labradorians, united and strong! And today we are here to make our voices heard.

We are here at the office of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs to send a message to Dwight Ball and Perry Trimper.

To Dwight Ball: We demand that you step down as Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. You do not speak for Labradorians. When was the last time you even stepped foot in Labrador? How dare you hold that position! For you to hold the title of Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs is insulting! Step down.

And to Perry Trimper. We have one word for you: Resign. You have failed us time and time again. Your incompetence as our representative is astounding. You have allowed Muskrat Falls to become an unmitigated disaster in your own backyard. Shame on you. You have not listened to your constituents on this issue and your inaction is not acceptable. We call on you to resign immediately.

And finally, the Labrador Land Protectors are calling on the provincial Liberal government to shut Muskrat down. This has gone on far too long. Muskrat Falls is a threat to the health and safety of Labradorians. It is crippling the economy of the entire province. Environmentally, the costs to our land and water far outweigh any gains. This boondoggle of a project hurts every single person in Newfoundland and Labrador. We demand you to shut it down.

As the Labrador Land Protectors, we are strong and we are determined. We are putting all levels and types of governments and Nalcor on notice. We will take the actions necessary to ensure the continuation of our people and environment for many generations. IF you do not, make no mistake, we will shut Muskrat down.

Video of the protest can be viewed on the Labrador Wild” Facebook page.

Last updated Monday, Jan. 9, 2:30 p.m. NST.

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