9 arrested at Muskrat Falls in early morning police raid
by Trina Roache, APTN National News, October 17, 2016
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L — Nine people arrested in an early morning raid on a camp at the entrance to the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric construction project are in custody and waiting to go before a judge.
The eight people who say they are defenders of the land were arrested Monday when the RCMP cleared the camp after a court injunction was issued.
The RCMP in St. John’s, N.L. released a brief statement Monday.
“The arrests come following a court granted enforcement order,” the statement said. “There were no injuries during the arrests and police will continue to monitor the activity. The individuals are still in custody and are awaiting court appearances later today. The investigation is continuing.”
The RCMP said they have been charged with disobeying a court order.
According to the provincially owned energy company Nalcor, the group had been blocking the entrance to the site and slowing progress of the work.
The project is controversial for Labrador Inuit who say the flooding of the Lower Churchill river with vegetation in place will cause the toxin methylmercury to be released into the land.
They want the area to be cleared of any vegetation prior to flooding. According to Nalcor 41 squre kilometres will be flooded for the dam.
“That will not stop us …”
At a news conference broadcast live from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Nunatukavut President Todd Russell condemned the arrests and vowed they will not stop the movement to change the plan for Muskrat Falls unless the government stops the planned flooding.
“As of today the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) will be committing our people, our resources to on the ground action until our voices are heard as we are respected,” said Russell. “We are here to say to nalcor , try to bring transformers through any of our communities and we will be there.”
The planned flood has prompted an Inuit artist to start a hunger strike. Billy Gauthier told APTN National News that he will not eat until the government agrees to clear cut the flood zone.
Russell said Monday that the NCC has called off its annual general meeting to concentrate on a strategy to take on Nalcor and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We are going to be on the protest site and get ready, it won’t be only one site,” said Russell. “It could any number of places on our land. We are taking direct action. We are committed to this for the long run.”
Protest in St. John’s ….
About 30 people marched in front of the legislature in St. John’s this morning to raise concerns about Muskrat Falls.
Organizer Denise Cole said the flooding of traditional Inuit land is an attack on local food sources and culture.
She wants the project, now estimated to cost $11.4-billion, to be scrapped.
Provincial NDP member Gerry Rogers says the Liberal government and the Tories before them have ignored concerns, despite studies by Harvard University that have raised alarms about methylmercury contamination.