Muskrat Falls protesters confront Dwight Ball, rally outside Nalcor Energy
Action wanted on potential environmental, cultural and economic impacts of Muskrat Falls
By Lukas Wall and Mark Quinn, CBC News, October 7, 2016
A handful of angry Muskrat Falls protesters gathered at a press conference with Premier Dwight Ball, MPs, and MHAs at Memorial University, after a protest outside Nalcor Energy in St. John’s Friday.
“Poisoning children is a crime, not on our watch, not our dime,” the group chanted shortly after the premier entered a room at MUN to announce funding for the university’s Battery facility.
The protesters were referring to concerns about methylmercury levels from Muskrat Falls.
Some protesters held signs bearing Dwight Ball’s image and the word “resign,” while others wore shirts with the slogan “resign today, save tomorrow,” directed at the premier.
“My God, you’re going to kill people,” shouted one protester as the group’s chant turned to “make Muskrat right,” before the doors closed and the conference got underway.
Liberal MPs Seamus O’Regan, Nick Whalen, cabinet minister Dale Kirby and MHA Bernard Davis were also in attendance, along with MUN president Gary Kachanoski.
Earlier in the morning, more than 20 protesters gathered outside Nalcor Energy in St. John’s to voice their opposition to the Muskrat Falls project.
Coordinated Approach NL organized the demonstration to “stand with the people of Labrador” and “bring the concerns of the people directly to Nalcor.”
The group held a blockade and picket line outside the provincial energy corporation’s headquarters after 8 a.m.
Worried about Methylmercury poisoning
Members of Labrador’s Nunatsiavut government took part in the protest. They are calling for removal of all the trees, vegetation and soil in the area that will be flooded to create a reservoir for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam.
They’re concerned that methylmercury – which naturally accumulates in trees and soil – will poison wildlife in the area if it’s allowed to leach into the reservoir’s water.
“It will have a major impact on our people because there will be methylmercury in our fish and in our seals,” said Patricia Kemuksigak, Nunatsiavut government’s minister of education and economic development.
“It’s our traditional ways and we won’t be able to hunt and fish anymore. It’s very important for food security, our way of life and our culture.”
MUN students support protest
Members of Memorial University’s student union were also at the protest. They say they share the concerns of people in Labrador.
“We have students in Labrador, We have indigenous people and we feel it is important to support those students and take a stance on this issue,” said Lindsay Batt, director of finance and services with the MUN students’ union and the aboriginal students representative with the Canadian Federation of Students, N.L.
Batt said the province’s plan to begin flooding the reservoir in mid-October without removing soil and vegetation is unacceptable.
“We want them to completely clear the reservoir and mitigate the risk of methylmercury poisoning because you can’t willingly poison people and then expect to compensate them later,” she said.
Protesters also plan to hold a rally at Confederation Building at 12 p.m.
Demonstrators want action regarding the potential environmental, cultural and economic impacts of the mega-project.