Friday, October 18, 2019

One Step Forward: Singh’s NDP FINALLY Acknowledges Muskrat Falls…Sorta




October 18, 2019 – Almost two months after Indigenous land protectors sent an open letter to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh seeking a statement of opposition to the Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador and the poisoning of the Indigenous food supply that has been ongoing since August 7, Singh and the NDP have finally issued some comments, but only in a back-handed, casual, after-thought kind of way, and only in response to a letter from white Premier Dwight Ball.

            Indeed, rather than responding to the Indigenous Labrador Land Protectors who have been criminalized for standing up for their lives (and who, in addition to requesting a meeting to discuss these issues with the NDP, had three very specific demands that would help prevent the further destruction of their food web), Singh has finally mentioned Muskrat Falls in this campaign for the very first time after the white Newfoundland and Labrador premier, Dwight Ball, wrote asking how the NDP would respond to the many challenges facing that province.

            While much of the lengthy response letter is boilerplate NDP rhetoric and detailed explanation of some of its decent policies around poverty reduction, affordable housing, and Indigenous child welfare, the party prioritizes concerns about the doubling of hydro rates with respect to the Muskrat Falls megadam. While this is of course an important issue for many of the province’s low-income residents, it seems that of lesser importance to the NDP, based on where it appears in the letter after discussion of rate mitigation, is this statement: “We are also committed to moving forward on reconciliation, including by working with the province and the Nunatsiavut government to ensure that any possible efforts are pursued that may prevent or mitigate methyl mercury contamination.”

            While this acknowledgement is indeed a step forward, it fails to meaningfully address the real concerns raised last August by the Labrador Land Protectors, Grand Riverkeeper Inc., and the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition, both with respect to the fact that the only way to prevent that poisoning from further bioaccumulating is to reverse the impoundment of the dam and to clear the now submerged trees, brush, vegetation and topsoil as soon as possible, or decommissioning the project completely. The open letter to Singh had asked that he and/or party officials sit down with those who have been on the front lines of the Muskrat Falls struggle for over a decade to find out what is really going on, but they clearly were not interested.

Singh and the NDP also fail to address the fact that any path towards reconciliation must recognize what the United Nations commented upon in June, when they noted the Muskrat Falls megadam had NOT received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous people affected. In addition, Singh does not address concerns about the potential collapse of the North Spur, a natural formation composed of quick clay that is vulnerable to liquefaction under pressure, exposing hundreds to the risk of catastrophic dam break and mass casualty flash flooding. 

            Clearly, the public pressure campaign launched by the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition has had some effect: hundreds of calls and emails have gone to the NDP, and a representative of the group personally hand-delivered the open letter from the land protectors to NDP national headquarters in September. This caused a great discomfort in the NDP office and the messenger was subsequently shown the door. But while this acknowledgement is of importance, there has been no public statement giving national profile to the Muskrat Falls issue, even though it is the largest single federal investment in an energy project at $9.2 billion. It is that silence which continues, and which is frustrating for those who have been ignored for so long.

            Problematically, while the NDP quite properly declares that it would be “committed to working with the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous people in Labrador on policies that benefit the people living in these areas and would include Labrador within the scope of Canada’s existing Arctic policies,” nowhere does it mention free, prior and informed consent in the section devoted to “Sustainable Development of Our Resources.” Indeed, the NDP appears here to buy into the false notion that methane-belching megadams are green energy (perhaps one of the reasons they have maintained silence on Site C, Keeyask, and the many Manitoba Hydro installations that have devastated northern Indigenous communities as well).
There are other problems with the NDP letter as well: for example, it is committed to building a new penitentiary (to replace an aging institution where numerous land defenders have been previously incarcerated for asserting their rights) at a time when it is crystal clear that building jails has no positive social purpose. It also recommends increasing the military’s footprint at CFB Goose Bay for economic reasons (even though the military has traditionally played the role of colonizer in Labrador and is the single biggest governmental emitter of greenhouse gas emissions).
Nonetheless, the letter’s mention of Muskrat Falls is the first in what will need to be further steps to push the only party likely to have any clout in Ottawa as an opposition voice to help raise the profile of and opposition to Muskrat Falls.
While cynics say there is no point continuing to protest Muskrat Falls – even as each day that the dam exists is another day of bioaccumlating poison in the traditional country food web and growing risk of flash flood disaster – such a position fails to recognize that this megadam is part of a much larger story about the ongoing history of colonization and land and water theft in Labrador. That story includes plans to start construction on yet another megadam, this time at Gull Island, that would further destroy the natural environment and cause additional harm to Indigenous people and settlers who live in the area.
The fact that the NDP has not clearly taken a stand with respect to free, prior and informed consent on Muskrat Falls – placing the party in the loathsome company of Colonial Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett – is not a good sign. However, the fact that public pressure appears to have gotten them to this point of acknowledging the methylmercury concern is a sign that, unlike the Liberals and Conservatives (who both wholeheartedly support the megadam), we can move the NDP to be a much stronger voice in dialing down Muskrat Falls and closing out any consideration of Gull Island.
In the meantime, a 10-week chain fast of solidarity with those living downstream of Muskrat Falls continues until October 21, and a group of Labrador Land Protectors who have been in the courts for three years will finally receive judgment and sentencing later this month as well in Happy Valley Goose Bay.

           

Monday, August 26, 2019

Indigenous Land Protectors, Allies Call on NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to Break Muskrat Falls Silence

Facing Methylmercury Poisoning of the Indigenous Country Food Web and Potentially Catastrophic Dam Break downstream of Muskrat Falls, Indigenous Land Protectors and Allies Call on Jagmeet Singh and Federal NDP to Oppose Dangerous Labrador Megadam



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OPEN LETTER TO NDP LEADER JAGMEET SINGH: BREAK YOUR SILENCE ON THE DEADLY MUSKRAT FALLS MEGADAM

AUGUST 27, 2019
A time comes when silence is betrayal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

Dear Mr. Singh,

We write today with an ache in our hearts that reflects a real fear in the Big Land of Labrador. We are Indigenous people and settler allies who have for years tried to stop the federally-supported disaster of the Muskrat Falls megadam, whose single biggest investor – at $9.2 billion – is the federal government.

We write to you because we feel your fine words about reconciliation and free, prior, and informed consent are lifeless without you speaking out to end the methylmercury poisoning of an Indigenous country food web that has existed since time immemorial.

This poisoning of an Indigenous country food web – which could still be reversed or, at best, significantly reduced with an immediate reversal of the impoundment of the dam’s reservoir that began on August 7 – is the latest in a centuries’-old Canadian strategy of poisoning or eliminating by other violent means the Indigenous food supply.  

This dam, which will produce "blood megawatts" for sales abroad, threatens an act of cultural genocide via methylmercury poisoning and the additional risk of catastrophic dam break. Indeed, mass casualty flash floods are a real possibility since a significant portion of the dam reservoir is slated to be held back by a natural formation known as the North Spur, composed of quick clay (sand that liquefies and moves under pressure). No proper, independent engineering study has been performed to confirm the stability of the North Spur.

AN ISSUE OF NATIONAL CONCERN
As this crime unfolds before our very eyes, many people have emailed and called your office asking that you issue a statement. This is, as noted above, a federal issue. Your provincial counterpart, Newfoundland and Labrador NDP leader Alison Coffin, has written to say that the impoundment of the reservoir must be halted until the poisoning concerns have been addressed. But as federal leader, you have a responsibility to speak out as well.

Indeed, in June of this year, the United Nations called on  "the Federal Government to use its leverage as the largest investor in the [Muskrat Falls] project...to prevent the release of methylmercury,” while earlier this month, the Indigenous Nunatsiavut government called for all necessary measures to prevent the poisoning of the traditional country food web with this neurotoxin. The UN also noted that the project had not received free, prior and informed consent of all affected Indigenous peoples.

Like with any number of megaprojects, all Indigenous people affected have not provided free, prior and informed consent to be poisoned and drowned by this megadam. Non-Indigenous residents also face similar threats from a project that could eventually cost as much as $78 billion and bankrupt the province, forcing further austerity on the most vulnerable of the province's residents.

CRIMINALIZED FOR LAND PROTECTION
Many of us who sign this letter have been arrested and criminalized for standing up for Indigenous human rights at Muskrat Falls. Some have been bound in chains and thrown into maximum security penitentiaries simply for being on our lands. Others have sought to take the case to Parliament Hill, where on three separate occasions, we, again, have been arrested and banned from the premises.

We seek your support now because you present yourself and your party as the only real alternative to the dangerous status quo that has governed this land for centuries. We would like to believe that, but thusfar, your silence has been disappointing.

Hence, we seek from you a strong public statement supporting our demands:

1.   An immediate halt to impoundment of the Muskrat Falls reservoir, and immediate implementation of the original recommendations from a joint 2011 provincial-federal environmental assessment (seconded by a major 2016 Harvard University study and further echoed by an Independent Experts Advisory Committee) for full clearance of brush, trees, and topsoil, along with the capping of the wetlands, at the Muskrat Falls reservoir to prevent the bioaccumulation of the neurotoxin methylmercury.

2.  Immediate appointment of an independent inquiry into the instability of the North Spur, because no study has proven that it is secure enough to prevent a catastrophic dam break and mass drowning.

3.   The federal government, provincial government, and Nalcor (the crown corporation behind the dam) must halt all work on the dam until they have received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous peoples affected by the dam, as well as that of non-Indigenous downstream residents.

Failing all of these demands, Muskrat Falls must be decommissioned and returned to its natural state.

Too often, we are told it is too late to turn back. But our future demands nothing less than turning back. As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, it is always the right time to do what is right. The fact that we are continuing down the wrong road does not mean the brakes cannot be applied and the path reversed.

In the same manner that Martin Luther King, Jr. courageously broke his silence over the crime of the U.S. war against Vietnam, we call on you now to break your silence, work with us to come up with a strong statement in opposition to the crime of Muskrat Falls, and give real life and meaning to the words you have spoken and the positions your party has taken on paper.

Please feel free to contact the Labrador Land Protectors ( jamesglearning@yahoo.ca) or the Ontario Muskrat Solidarity Coalition (tasc@web.ca, 613-267-3998)  so that we may work with you in halting a disaster that continues to unfold every day.

Marjorie Flowers
Denise Cole
Erin Saunders
Amy Norman
James Learning
Beatrice Hunter
Delilah Saunders
Bryanna Brown
Matthew Behrens
Roberta Frampton Benefiel

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Muskrat Falls Emergency Solidarity Chain Fast, August 7 to October 21, 2019

Stop the Poisoning and Drowning of Labrador’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous People at Muskrat Falls



 Background
A crime unfolding in Labrador is set to escalate on August 7, when the wholly preventable methylmercury poisoning of an Indigenous country food web that has existed since time immemorial will begin downstream of Muskrat Falls.



Colonial powers have always relied on the poisoning and destruction of Indigenous food supplies as part of a genocidal agenda, and it is no different in Labrador, where the Trudeau government has invested a whopping $9.2 billion into the lethal Muskrat Falls megadam.



Despite pleas from the United Nations and the Indigenous government of Nunatsiavut, as well as the clear violation of Canada's legally binding commitments under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the provincial government of Dwight Ball and its federal government backers are refusing to take any measures to stop the methylmercury poisoning, forcing many to either go hungry or consume foods that contain a neurotoxin that contributes to the deadly Minamata Disease, an affliction all too familiar to the people of Grassy Narrows.



This dam, which will produce "blood megawatts" for sales abroad, threatens an act of cultural genocide via methylmercury poisoning and the additional risk of catastrophic dam break. Indeed, mass casualty flash floods are a real possibility since a significant portion of the dam reservoir is slated to be held back by a natural formation known as the North Spur, composed of quick clay (sand that liquefies and moves under pressure). No proper, independent engineering study has been performed to confirm the stability of the North Spur.



Like any number of megaprojects, all Indigenous people affected have not provided free, prior and informed consent to be poisoned and drowned by this megadam. Non-Indigenous residents also face similar threats from a project that could eventually cost as much as $78 billion and bankrupt the province, forcing further austerity on the most vulnerable of the province's residents.





Why We’re Fasting

During the period leading up to and including the federal election, when all parties will put forward "green plans," we will fast to continue raising awareness of and building resistance to the dangerous Muskrat Falls project which, like all megadams, is NOT green energy. The fast is also an opportunity to demand of anyone who runs for public office that they must speak out against and discuss how they will stop the poisoning of an Indigenous country food web that has existed since time immemorial



We will fast for one or more days during the months between August 7 – when the waters in the reservoir will begin to rise and submerge uncleared vegetation, brush, trees, and soil, thus kicking off the methylmercury bioaccumulation that threatens future generations – and the expected date of the federal election, October 21.



This fast is in support of the Labrador Land Protectors (some of whom still face court proceedings for being on their own land), all those living at risk downstream of the Muskrat Falls megadam, and the poorest and most vulnerable residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, who will face severe cutbacks to desperately needed social programs to pay for this disaster.



We fast because we recognize that if Muskrat Falls goes online without any changes, the largely Indigenous downstream population will be faced with either going hungry or eating a country food web dangerously poisoned by the neurotoxin methylmercury.  



We fast because we recognize the hungering for justice of people who have never been properly consulted about a project that threatens their lives.



We fast because we recognize that all of us undertaking small sacrifices together can help awaken the sleeping conscience of a country that has yet to take seriously the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the cornerstone principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.



The fast will continue from August 7 to October 21 with three demands:



1.   An immediate halt to impoundment of the Muskrat Falls reservoir, and immediate implementation of the original recommendations from a joint 2011 provincial-federal environmental assessment (seconded by a major 2016 Harvard University study and further echoed by an Independent Experts Advisory Committee) for full clearance of brush, trees, and topsoil, along with the capping of the wetlands, at the Muskrat Falls reservoir to prevent the bioaccumulation of the neurotoxin methylmercury.



2.  Immediate appointment of an independent inquiry into the instability of the North Spur, because no study has proven that it is secure enough to prevent a catastrophic dam break and mass drowning.



3.   The federal government, provincial government, and Nalcor (the crown corporation behind the dam) must halt all work on the dam until they have received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous peoples affected by the dam, as well as that of non-Indigenous downstream residents.



Failing all of these demands, Muskrat Falls must be decommissioned and returned to its natural state.



How to participate in the Chain Fast

Pick a day (or a series of days) to fast throughout the summer season and email your name and town to tasc@web.ca) A list of open dates and names is below. More than one person can fast on the same date.



Fast according to your preferred tradition (a full 24 hours, liquids only, sun up to sun down).



The fast is open to anyone (you can join even if you are not living in the land known as Canada)



On the day they fast we encourage you to:

a.  take a selfie with a simple message (ie, #ShutMuskratDown, Stop Poisoning Indigenous People in Labrador, Respect Indigenous Rights, etc) and share that image via social media, explaining why you are fasting on that day



b.   Write an email to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Stolen Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, and Colonial Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett federally, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball and Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall (the crown corporation behind the project), to explain why you are fasting and reinforce the three demands listed above. Emails are: pm@pm.gc.caCatherine.McKenna@parl.gc.caAmarjeet.Sohi@parl.gc.cacarolyn.bennett@parl.gc.cadwightball@gov.nl.cainfo@nalcorenergy.comtasc@web.ca



c. Write a letter to a local newspaper about why they are fasting, and perhaps link your fast to land and water protection struggles taking place in your territory.



d. If you have the time, make a sign and vigil for an hour or two in public at a federal building or MP’s office to mark your fast and the reasons behind it (we can provide flyers to hand out).



Thanks for your support!



The Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition

Wednesday, August 7: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL; Angela Giles, Halifax; Sabrina Bell & Ronnie Villeneuve; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, August 8:  David Heap, London, ON
Friday, August 9: Lori Borthwick, Belleville, ON
Saturday, August 10: Brian Burch, Toronto, ON
Sunday, August 11: Brian Burch, Toronto, ON
Monday, August 12: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, August 13: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, August 14: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, August 15:  Ella Pegan, Ottawa, ON
Friday, August 16: Lesley Anne Paveling, Ottawa, ON
Saturday, August 17: Liz White, Edmonton, AB
Sunday, August 18: Jozef Konyari, Toronto, ON
Monday, August 19: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, August 20: Belinda Cole, Toronto
Wednesday, August 21: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL;
Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, August 22:  Deb Pinkus, Peterborough, ON
Friday, August 23: Rose McKendrick, Toronto, ON
Saturday, August 24: Lawrence Applebaum, Burlington, ON
Sunday, August 25: Matthew Behrens, Perth, ON
Monday, August 26: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, August 27: Frank Mazey, Edmonton, AB
Wednesday, August 28: Sylvia Smith, Ottawa, ON, Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, August 29:  Luke Stocking, Toronto, ON
Friday, August 30: David Heap, London, ON
Saturday, August 31: Wendy Newton, London, ON
Sunday, September 1: Matthew Behrens, Perth, ON
Monday, September 2: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, September 3: Jeremy Scoffield, Vancouver, BC
Wednesday, September 4: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, September 5: William Sinclair, Edmonton, AB
Friday, September 6: kathrin winkler, Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People
Saturday, September 7: Jozef Konyari, Toronto, ON
Sunday, September 8: Caitlin Hewitt-White, Toronto
Monday, September 9: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, September 10: Randal Hadland   Dawson Creek, BC  (near the Site C destruction)
Wednesday, September 11: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, September 12: Honore Dawson,Toronto, ON
Friday, September 13: Jeremy Rogers, Toronto, ON
Saturday, September 14: Steve Smith, Montreal, QC
Sunday, September 15: Farista Sairuv, Edmonton, AB
Monday, September 16: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, September 17: Dorene Bernard, Grassroots Grandmother, Mi'kmaki Treaty Truck House on the Shubenacadie River
Wednesday, September 18: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, September 19: Bill Portence, Toronto, ON
Friday, September 20: Liz Holder, Toronto, ON
Saturday, September 21: Jeremy Balinski, Edmonton, AB
Sunday, September 22: Matthew Behrens, Perth, ON
Monday, September 23: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, September 24: Trycia Bazinet, Luxembourg
Wednesday, September 25: Sylvia Smith, Ottawa, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL, Lini Hutchings, Vancouver, BC; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, September 26: Bill Portence, Toronto, ON
Friday, September 27: Rita Monias, Pimicikamak
Saturday, September 28: Dorothy McKay, Toronto, ON
Sunday, September 29: William Faith, Montreal, QC
Monday, September 30: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, October 1: Alison Jones, Vancouver, BC
Wednesday, October 2: Jennifer Smith, Victoria, BC
Thursday, October 3: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Carolyn (Lynn) Smart, Toronto. ON
Friday, October 4: Bert Somerville, Burlington, ON
Saturday, October 5: Chuck Wright, Vancouver, BC
Sunday, October 6: Angelica Vincent, Hopedale, NL
Monday, October 7: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, October 8: Brian Burch, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, October 9: Brian Burch, Toronto, ON
Thursday, October 10: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Friday, October 11: Nell Mayo, Ottawa, ON
Saturday, October 12: Chuck Wright, Vancouver, BC
Sunday, October 13: Angelica Vincent, Hopedale, NL; Memorial University Geography Graduate Student Association
Monday, October 14: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, October 15: Arianne Di Nardo, Toronto, ON; Jim McKibbin, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, October 16: Sylvia Smith, Ottawa, ON; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, October 17: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Friday, October 18: Jean-Paul Allard, Ottawa
Saturday, October 19: Jean-Paul Allard, Ottawa
Sunday, October 20: Michelle Bush St. John’s, NL; Angelica Vincent, Hopedale, NL
Monday, October 21: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC


















Saturday, June 8, 2019

Indigenous Land and Water Defenders Arrive in Ottawa to Demand End to Large Hydro Dams

Thursday's release of preliminary findings by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes paints a damning picture of environmental racism and, at Muskrat Falls, a very real threat of methylmercury poisoning from a project that failed to receive free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people. Front-line land defenders from Labrador are currently travelling over 3000 km to get to Ottawa for the events below, as is a delegation of Indigenous women from hydro-impacted communities in Manitoba. 


Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition, (613) 267-3998, (613) 300-9536, tasc@web.ca

Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities, (204) 474-9316.


For Immediate Release, June 8,  2019

Indigenous Land and Water Defenders Arrive in Ottawa to Demand End to Large Hydro Dams

Press Conference Highlights Concerns About Methylmercury Poisoning, Biodiversity Loss, Lack of Consent from Muskrat Falls to Manitoba Hydro to Site C

Where: Room 135-B in the West Block

When: Monday, June 10, 9 am

Why: As 1,100 delegates to a large dams conference gather in Ottawa, Indigenous people adversely impacted by large dams, along with supporters, will spend the day involved in peaceful protests against the dams while presenting Catherine McKenna with a petition signed by over 15,000 people

Who:

Amy Norman, Nunatsiavummiuk, Labrador Land Protector, Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Dr. Ramona Neckaway, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House, Manitoba)

Carol Kobliski, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House, Manitoba)

Rita Monias, Pimicikamak Okimawin (Cross Lake, Manitoba)

Matthew Behrens, Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition

Meg Sheehan, North American Megadams Resistance Alliance, New Hampshire



Ottawa, ON (Unceded, Unsurrendered Algonquin Territory) – Representatives of a number of Indigenous communities adversely impacted by large hydro dams and their supporters will converge on Ottawa June 10 to hold a 9 am press conference in Room 135-B (West Block) and a series of peaceful protests to call on all federal parties to address their concerns about communities seriously damaged by megaprojects that have never received their free, prior and informed consent.

            Following the press conference, the land and water defenders will be joined by supporters outside the massive gathering of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), whose 1,100 members are holding a week-long conference at the Shaw Centre (55 Colonel By Drive). There, they will try and share their experiences of large dams’ negative impacts on their communities with conference attendees, starting at 10 am.

    The gathering follows on the release of preliminary findings from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes yesterday in Ottawa, including his recommendation that the federal government "use its leverage as the largest investor in the [Muskrat Falls] project to review whether UNDRIP compatible procedures were followed for all affected indigenous peoples,  and to prevent the release of methyl mercury.”

            Amy Norman, who for almost three years faced criminal and civil charges for peacefully protesting the Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador (which is backed by $9.2 billion in federal loan guarantees), will then lead a delegation to Parliament Hill during the noon hour to try and present a petition with 15,000 signatures calling on Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to take immediate measures to stop the impending methylmercury poisoning of the Inuit and Innu peoples’ traditional food web. A similar presentation will take place in St. John's, Newfoundland on June 10 as well.

            “So many people downstream of Muskrat Falls rely on country food for their diet, and with Harvard University clearly showing that this food web will be poisoned with the neurotoxin methylmercury, people are incredibly anxious and afraid for their future and that of their children and grandchildren,” says Norman, who has travelled over 3,000 km to Ottawa.

             Among those who have also traveled significant distances are a delegation from Northern Manitoba as part of the Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities. They want to draw attention to the devastating socio-economic, cultural and environmental impacts associated with mega-hydro and to address delegates at the ICOLD gathering. Dr. Ramona Neckoway, Chair of Aboriginal and Northern Studies at University College of the North and member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House) states that “the cumulative and extensive impacts of mega-hydro are poorly understood and are ignored by industry, governments and regulators. In northern Manitoba, many of us were born into damaged landscapes and fresh water has been sacrificed for mega-hydro. I am here to stand in solidarity with other hydro-affected communities who share similar experiences and concerns” she explains. She and other northern Manitoba Cree recently addressed the United Nations about these concerns.           

    "We're fed up with what's going on, and how we're left out and how things are just fast-tracked in regards to our lands,” explains Carol Kobliski, also of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. “There's not proper consultation, and these dams are just coming up all over the place."

            Pimicikamak Okimawin elder Rita Monias, who was arrested in a peaceful protest last fall on Parliament Hill, will be part of that delegation as well.

“ “We have seen major displacement, a loss of cultural knowledge, reduced access to traditional foods and medicines and far fewer opportunities to take part in our traditional economy, destruction of our burial grounds and cultural sites, the fear of eating our traditional foods because of methylmercury poisoning, injury and death due to hazardous navigation on the waters, and major changes and reductions in the wildlife whose patterns have been disrupted by the dams,” says Monias. “We cannot allow any more environmental devastation on our Mother Earth. We have to protect it.”

Notably, this week’s report of the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for a public inquiry into another of big hydro’s ill effects: sexual assault and racism by residents of man camps at remote Manitoba facilities like the Keeyask dam.

Meanwhile, Meg Sheehan, traveling to Ottawa from New Hampshire, says she has a message for the Canadian government:  “We don’t want your dirty Canadian hydropower in the U.S. It is the equivalent of blood diamonds from Africa. There are unacceptable impacts on local communities and Indigenous rights. In the U.S. we are cutting off the markets for Canadian hydropower by stopping the seven transmission corridors planned through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.”

To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact: Matthew Behrens, Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition, (613) 300-9536 or Kelly Janz, Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities, (204) 474-9316.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

United Nations Calls on Trudeau Government to Take Immediate Action on Muskrat Falls Methylmercury Concerns

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June 6, 2019

Ottawa, ON (Unceded, Unsurrendered Algonquin Territory) – In an end-of-visit statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak today called on the federal government to use its leverage to address concerns about lack of proper consultation with Indigenous people (especially with respect to the parameters outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as the impending threat of methylmercury poisoning downstream of the massive Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador.

            “I urge the Federal Government to use its leverage as the largest investor in the project to review whether UNDRIP compatible procedures were followed for all affected indigenous peoples, and to prevent the release of methyl mercury,” the Rapporteur told a news conference on Parliament Hill. The federal government backs the megaproject with $9.2 billion in loan guarantees despite well-documented concerns about dire ecological impacts and adverse affects on the lives of Indigenous people downstream. Both the Harper and Trudeau governments have supported the Muskrat Falls megadam.

            During the Rapporteur’s visit to Canada, he met with Labrador Land Protectors including Nunatsiavummiuk Amy Norman and Nunatukavut elder James G Learning, along with Grand Riverkeeper's Roberta Frampton Benefiel and the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition's Matthew Behrens.

They shared a brief outlining their position that “Core to any study of Muskrat Falls is an understanding that Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by a megaproject that has never received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous affected. The key project supporters – provincial crown corporation Nalcor, the federal government (which backs the megadam with $9.2 billion in federal loan guarantees), and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador – sit at negotiating tables that are grossly unequal and weighted in their favour,” adding “as with many megaprojects in Canada, federal and provincial governments have relied on their own impoverished, colonial definition of consultation at Muskrat Falls… discounting the often dissenting concerns expressed by elders, traditional title holders, and grassroots voices” instead of employing the UNDRIP’s foundational guidelines of free, prior and informed consent.

            In his statement today, the Rapporteur noted that “Concerns were raised regarding the absence of meaningful consultation afforded to two affected First Nations, the risk of methyl mercury releases contaminating traditional foods and impacting health, the unaddressed risk of dam failure, and the flooding of sites containing toxic military waste. It was alleged that the vast majority of the affected community would either suffer from extreme food insecurity or be forced to eat contaminated food if the dam is constructed without proper clearance of the reservoir.”

            The risk of dam failure is a major concern for those downstream of Muskrat Falls, since a large natural formation, The North Spur, composed of quick clay (which liquefies under pressure), is being relied upon to hold back a full reservoir of water. The world’s leading quick clay expert, Dr. Stig Bernander, has studied the issue and found no independent study has shown this to be feasible.

            Today’s statement was a significant moment in the ongoing battle over the almost $13 billion megaproject in Labrador which its own CEO has derided as a “boondoggle.”

 “The ongoing abuses at Muskrat Falls, and the threat of cultural genocide being committed against Indigenous people whose traditional country food web is set to be poisoned with a lethal neurotoxin, methylmercury, is finally on the world stage with this recognition of serious concerns expressed by the United Nations’ Rapporteur,” explains Matthew Behrens of the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition.

            “Despite years of promises, no action whatsoever has been taken to clear the reservoir of the material that will result in the bioaccumulation of methylmercury in the fish, seals, and other country food, as documented by a peer-reviewed, four-year study by Harvard University. As always, the federal and provincial governments are treating Indigenous people as a national sacrifice zone, continuing the genocide that, ironically, Trudeau visited Labrador last year to apologize for with respect to residential schools.”

            “So many people downstream of Muskrat Falls rely on country food for their diet, and with Harvard University clearly showing that this food web will be poisoned with the neurotoxin methylmercury, people are incredibly anxious and afraid for their future and that of their children and grandchildren,” says Nunatsiavummiuk Amy Norman.

            On Monday, Labrador Land Protectors who have journeyed thousands of kilometres will address the national media at 9 am in the Parliamentary Press room 135-B (where the Rapporteur delivered his remarks today), attend a protest outside a major gathering of the International Commission of Large Dams at 10 am at the Shaw Centre, and then attempt to present a petition to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna  with over 15,000 signatures demanding she take action to halt the threat of methylmercury poisoning. They will be joined by  members of communities who for years have suffered the ill effects of similar large mega dams.

Among those who also will have traveled significant distances are a delegation from Northern Manitoba as part of the Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities. They want to draw attention to the devastating socio-economic, cultural and environmental impacts associated with mega-hydro and to address delegates at the ICOLD gathering. Dr. Ramona Neckoway, Chair of Aboriginal and Northern Studies at University College of the North and member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House) states that “the cumulative and extensive impacts of mega-hydro are poorly understood and are ignored by industry, governments and regulators. In northern Manitoba, many of us were born into damaged landscapes and fresh water has been sacrificed for mega-hydro. I am here to stand in solidarity with other hydro-affected communities who share similar experiences and concerns” she explains. She and other northern Manitoba Cree recently addressed the United Nations about these concerns.            

"We're fed up with what's going on, and how we're left out and how things are just fast-tracked in regards to our lands,” explains Carol Kobliski, also of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. “There's not proper consultation, and these dams are just coming up all over the place."

            Pimicikamak Okimawin elder Rita Monias, who was arrested in a peaceful protest last fall on Parliament Hill, will be part of that delegation as well.

“We have seen major displacement, a loss of cultural knowledge, reduced access to traditional foods and medicines and far fewer opportunities to take part in our traditional economy, destruction of our burial grounds and cultural sites, the fear of eating our traditional foods because of methylmercury poisoning, injury and death due to hazardous navigation on the waters, and major changes and reductions in the wildlife whose patterns have been disrupted by the dams,” says Monias. “We cannot allow any more environmental devastation on our Mother Earth. We have to protect it.”

Notably, this week’s report of the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for a public inquiry into another of big hydro’s ill effects: sexual assault and racism by residents of man camps at remote Manitoba facilities like the Keeyask dam.

Meanwhile, Meg Sheehan, traveling to Ottawa from New Hampshire, says she has a message for the Canadian government:  “We don’t want your dirty Canadian hydropower in the U.S. It is the equivalent of blood diamonds from Africa. There are unacceptable impacts on local communities and Indigenous rights. In the U.S. we are cutting off the markets for Canadian hydropower by stopping the seven transmission corridors planned through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.”