Letter from a Labrador youth

As the federal and provincial governments steamroll ahead with plans to dam the Lower Grand River (known as Mistashipu to many locals), individuals and aboriginal groups in Labrador are raising their voices in opposition to what many see as an appropriation of their land without fair compensation.

As a private member’s bill in support of the controversial Muskrat Falls hyrdo-electric megaproject was passed in the House of Assembly Wednesday afternoon, protestors outside demonstrated with Labrador and Newfoundland Republic flags, and signs that read “R.I.P. NL Democracy” and “Democracy 1832-2012”. The action was the latest in a series of ongoing demonstrations, marches, rallies and boil-ups in St. John’s and Labrador to oppose the political process being undertaken to sanction Muskrat Falls, or the project entirely.

On Nov. 30, accompanied by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale, Conservative MP and former Innu leader Peter Penashue, national defense minister Peter MacKay and Nova Scotia Premier Darrel Dexter, Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a term sheet for a federal loan guarantee. The scene inside the 5 Wing Goose Bay Canadian Forces Base was a stark contrast to that outside the base’s front gates, where Labradorians protested against Harper’s visit and the development of another large hydro dam on the Grand River.

As public debate on Muskrat Falls continues, several key issues regarding the project remain unresolved, from a NunatuKavut land claim to public suspicion that information vital to informed, transparent decision-making may be protected under new access to information laws, to inconclusive assessmets by both the joint review panel and the Public Utilities Board (PUB)–both of which claimed more information was needed in order for them to fulfill their mandates–to repeated demands from opposition parties that Muskrat Falls be subjected to special debate in the House of Assembly and that it go back to the PUB so the independent regulatory body may consider new information it didn’t have earlier this year.

Amidst all the controversy a Dec. 3 email from a Labrador youth to her MHA, Liberal member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair Yvonne Jones, surfaced on Facebook on Wednesday. The letter, written by 16-year-old Kailee Poole of St. Lewis, Labrador, amounts to a plea for the provincial government to halt its exploitation of Labrador’s natural resources and labour for the primary benefit of those on the Island, and for Labrador independence.

Here is the full, unedited letter:

To whom this may concern,

Hello, My name is Kailee Poole, I’m 16 years old and I live in St. Lewis, a small community on the South Coast of Labrador. As you already know, there has been a big controversy going on between Labrador and the government recently and I’ve decided to send this email to inform you about my thoughts about what has been going on and I am positive that these thoughts and feelings are mutual to every citizen of Labrador. I feel that the government hasn’t been and isn’t doing their job by fulfilling the needs of both Newfoundland and Labrador by focusing more on Newfoundland than they have been on Labrador. Therefore I think Newfoundland and Labrador should become separate.

I believe that Newfoundland is taking away all of Labrador’s resources and it will continue unless a change is made. I feel that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is only focused on the issues and future of Newfoundland and not on Labrador, especially the South Coast. We have no pavement, and the road conditions are disgusting and there is nothing being done about it. If there was a hole in the pavement in Newfoundland, it would be all over the news and there would be something done about it as soon as possible. We’ve been dealing with these road conditions for years and there is nothing being done. It is also 2012, and there is still no water or sewer in areas of my community. The only time when we have it is during the summer when it is hooked up through lines running all around the community which are not sustainable. In other cold seasons when the water freezes we have to fill barrels up with water at the local pump house ourselves and pump it into our vat. My father is working year-round most of the time, so my mother and I have to get it ourselves. We have to do this two maybe three times a week for about 7 months. We also have no cellular service, it seems that every other place in the province has this except the South Coast.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is supposed to be supporting both Newfoundland and Labrador, and I feel that they are not doing their job. Newfoundland receives over half of their resources from Labrador and what do we get in return for this? Nothing. We are being sucked dry of our resources and it is not fair nor is it right.

“This development of Muskrat Falls is financially attractive, generates a positive rate of return and ensures long-term price stability. An agreement with Emera for transmission access in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and through to New England and the sale of additional power to export markets, further enhances the viability of the development and makes this approach the most economic solution over time. It also creates further export opportunity in the future for the other significant renewable hydro and wind resources throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.” (http://www.gov.nl.ca/lowerchurchillproject/backgrounder_3.htm)

Hence, “and Labrador”, that part of the statement is completely false. Labrador is receiving absolutely nothing from this project other than construction jobs which probably will end up being given to outsiders instead of people in Labrador, we didn’t even get consulted about this project, we had no say in it whatsoever. The only thing we are receiving from this is going to be extremely increased bills from the government to pay off the $7.4-billion loan guarantee which will allow Newfoundland to bypass Quebec transmission lines by sending electricity along an undersea cable from Muskrat Falls to Cape Breton – and then on to the United States. We are not receiving any benefits from this whatsoever, yet the resource is in Labrador. This should be illegal. Labrador is being drained of all its resources and it is not right, especially since we aren’t getting any benefits.

Labrador does not have enough power as it is, we’ve received a number of power outages and there even would be times where the lights would literally dim due to the lack of electricity. Here in St. Lewis, we currently have only one motor in working condition which is burning diesel, we are currently receiving subsidy so the bills will not literally go sky high, and this is not guaranteed to last long and if it happens to drop, it will no longer be affordable to live here.

We currently have a mining company, Search Minerals Inc. in the area due to finding minerals all around our area, and if they were to come here and say that they wanted to open a mine here, we would not be able to do that due to the lack of power that we have. Our community is literally falling apart, and if we’d have to lose an opportunity such as a mine opening here, would be devastating. There is an unbelievably low amount of jobs here and over half of the population has to go to different areas to work or had to permanently move away. We no longer have our fish plant here which has caused a great decrease in employment here even though it was only offered in the summer season. Labrador is literally going to hell, and unless a change is made, in another few decades time, there will be nothing and no one left here because it will be too expensive and there will be no employment.

I was recently travelling to Labrador City and we stopped at a resting area and you could look out over the area and it was beautiful, we could see where Muskrat Falls was as well, there were more people stopped there along with us and the man said “Look at this while you can, because when they complete the Muskrat Falls project, all of this will be flooded” and to look out over that area and imagine it being flooded was heartbreaking.

On my trip I also saw the Churchill Falls river for the first time, and to me, it literally looked like what I imagined hell to look like. It was revolting. What was even more revolting is that Labrador didn’t receive any benefit from that project either and if we don’t do something, Muskrat Falls will look the same. Every other part of Atlantic Canada seems to be more important to the government other than Labrador, and it’s time for that to change. The people of Labrador are sick and tired of having everything taken away from them and not getting anything in return. The Churchill Falls project and the Muskrat Falls project would be acceptable of Labrador’s people if we were receiving benefits as well. This is Labrador’s land, we own it, this is not a part of Newfoundland nor will it ever be.

The “work” that the government is doing is unbelievably disgusting and pitiful. It is just as well that they just be called the Newfoundland government, because I do not see Labrador being involved in it anywhere. We have nothing, and looking at the way things are going right now, we never will have anything unless there is a change. The past generations may have stood by and just watched everything get taken away from Labrador, but recently I think that that will not be the case for very much longer. I believe that since the Newfoundland and Labrador government won’t do their job in helping both parts of the province and will not support and help Labrador, it should become two separate governments, because then maybe, Labrador will actually have things done.

I feel that the government had failed us as a province and will continue to do so until there is something done about it. Labrador and its citizens are sick and tired of being completely ignored, put last in everything, not having a say in anything, and not getting any benefit whatsoever from the government and the province, therefore, if the government won’t do their job for both parts of the province, then I’m absolutely positive that other people will if Newfoundland and Labrador are separated and Labrador became its own territory and have its own territorial government.


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