The Town of Cartwright, Labrador delivered a strong statement to Nalcor and the provincial government Wednesday evening following a public forum during which residents vowed to block a cargo shipment headed for Muskrat Falls.

Immediately following the meeting the town council posted on its Facebook page that “the opinions voiced at the meeting were very strong, and the direction given to Council was very clear. By unanimous vote, we are to deliver the message to Nalcor and the Province that this project is not welcome to come through the port of Cartwright until all vegetation and soil is removed from the reservoir area.”

Click to enlarge. Facebook.

The message further stated that “if an attempt is made to use our Port without residents consenting, there will be on the ground action taken,” and that Cartwright is asking for solidarity among other communities in Labrador as well as the NunatuKavut Community Council, Nunatsiavut Government, and the Innu Nation in order “to stop the poisoning of our environment and termination of culture.

“There was much discussion around the topic, and the residents of Cartwright feel that there is no price tag on the safety and security of our wild food chain, or positive mental health that comes along with carrying on our traditions and culture,” the message concluded.

Cartwright is the first community to pledge direct action in an effort to halt the dam before irreversible damage is done to the water and country food residents of the Lake Melville region depend on.

The announcement comes at a critical moment. Crown energy corporation Nalcor has said it could begin the first phase of reservoir flooding as early as Oct. 15.

Since the time Nalcor issued the public safety warning two weeks ago that cautioned locals against going on the river above or below the dam or near the edges of riverbanks while it began impoundment, public opinion has swelled in both in Labrador and Newfoundland that construction on the dam should be stopped, either until concerns around mercury poisoning and the integrity of the North Spur are addressed, or permanently.

Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge told The Independent Wednesday evening after the meeting that the town had previously asked Nalcor and the province for help with the town’s aging infrastructure, which will be put under stress when seven 200-ton transformers are unloaded at the Cartwright port and moved through the community on 70-ton rigs.

But now, with growing awareness around the risks associated with the dam and mounting support to have the project stopped, Lethbridge said Cartwright residents want to do their part to ensure their community and others have a safe and healthy environment to live in.

“As a resident of Labrador and person who takes a lot of enjoyment from living off the land, and knowing many other people that do, I have major problems with the project itself,” he said. “And that’s the message that came from our residents tonight too.

“We’re not in Lake Melville, but we know full well that this can impact where we live as well. We’ve got family, friends, and our food chain extends into Lake Melville. So it’s not only a matter of supporting the rest of Labrador who’s in this fight to stop the methylmercury poisoning, but it’s an issue for us as well.”

Asked what the community will do to stop the transport of the transformers, Lethbridge said “whatever it takes, I guess.

“We’ve got protectors walking to the North Spur this week, Nunatsiavut Government’s Make Muskrat Right fighting the same battle — so maybe everybody will join forces, I don’t know. I’m not the ring leader and I’m not the lead on any on the ground protests, but the message was pretty clear tonight that there will be [action].”

Grassroots organizers have planned a ‘People’s March for Representation’ Thursday in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The event begins 2 p.m. outside the Labrador Friendship Centre and will end at Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper’s office at the Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs building.

Justin Brake (he/him) is an independent journalist from Newfoundland who currently lives on unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa.