Muskrat Falls hearings may have to begin again

Dave Bartlett
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NunatuKavut president says injunction may send process back to square one

Chris Montague, president of the Nunatukavut Community Council, holds one of a series of maps which he says proves his group's land claim in central Labrador.

The president of NunatuKavut, formerly the Labrador Metis Nation, says if environmental hearings on Muskrat Falls go ahead this week as planned, they could be deemed invalid.

Chris Montague held a news conference in St. John’s Wednesday to discuss his group’s court injunction to stop the hearings.

“If (the joint review panel) intend to go ahead, the courts may (later) rule otherwise and they may be wasting their time,” he told reporters.

Montague said if the court rules in NunatuKavut’s favour, the panel may be told to start all over again.

“Our concern is that the rights of Labradorians are not being adequately addressed through this joint review process,” he said. “We’ve done our best to avoid confrontation (and began) months of negotiations and correspondence with Nalcor and the province.”

Process ‘railroaded through’

But Montague said the province has ignored previous court rulings “and has worked to exclude us from meaningful consultations.” He feels the process is being “railroaded through” so construction on the project — expected to begin this coming fall — won’t be delayed.

The hearings begin in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this evening. Montague told reporters he will attend to make a statement that NunatuKavut does not recognize the procedure as valid at this time.

Montague also released a letter from provincial Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner.

“The province’s position with respect to negotiation of a comprehensive land claims agreement with (NunatuKavut) has not changed since 2003, and despite the province’s continued requests that the federal government render its decision on (NunatuKavut’s) land claims documentation, the province continues to await that decision,” states the letter.

It goes on to say until Ottawa agrees NunatuKavut has a land claim, the province will not negotiate a benefits agreement with it.

But Montague said the province is wrong to keep NunatuKavut out of negotiations.

He said in 2006, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled in the Metis Nations’ favour over not being consulted on the Trans-Labrador Highway. That judgement was later upheld by the province’s Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

Montague said the knowledge of a credible land claim should be enough for the province to negotiate a settlement.

During the news conference, Montague also showed old maps which he said support the land claim of the Inuit of Southern Labrador.

“It’s our occupation (of the land) that gave Newfoundland the right to claim the interior of Labrador,” he said. “If we were not there (historically) we wouldn’t be dealing with the province right now. We’d be dealing with Hydro-Quebec.”

Montague said the panel recognized NunatuKavut’s claim and pointed out discrepancies and gaps in the province’s dealings with his group.

But he said the panel decided to begin public hearings this week anyway.

“The panel cannot determine the level of consultation which the government needs to ... agree to in dealing with us,” said Montague. “All they can do is report back to the government as to what was said.”

Kevin Aylward, CEO of Nunatu-Kavut’s economic development corporation, also spoke at the news conference and said there are other reasons the panel review should be delayed for now.

Aylward said the change of the project from a full Lower Churchill development — including the larger Gull Island dam — to just Muskrat Falls led the panel to ask Nalcor for more information on the environmental impacts of Muskrat alone.

He said the hearings were announced before all that information was received, and that is also part of NunatuKavut’s court challenge.

Aylward also said the Department of National Defence and Nalcor have yet to discuss how the hydroelectric project may affect a $300-million environmental cleanup of the Goose Bay air base, which is less than 1,000 feet from the Churchill River.

The matter will be heard in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador March 9.

 

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Supreme Court, Trans-Labrador Highway

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Ottawa Newfoundland and Labrador Southern Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Chalres Martin
    March 21, 2011 - 20:29

    Minister Skinner, the people of Labrador deserve more than your recent letter to the editor. This is simply unacceptable. Other than your letter to the editor, I am certain that many Labradorians would appreciate if you could share with us the reports that you have that are based on the consultations with the Labrador people, in Labrador communities that reveal: 1. Benefit considerations to individual Labrador communities, and Aboriginal groups? 2. Considerations (with cost estimates) to have the diesel generators in the communities on the north and south coasts of Labrador disposed of for cheap, clean, renewable, and reliable hydro energy? 3. Cost-benefit analysis that actually examines the potential benefits to Labrador communities by gaining access to adequate power that will do more than simply allow them to keep the lights on over the winter months? 4. What the results were of the "consultations" undertaken by the Newfoundland Government prior to their awarding of contracts and signing inter-provincial development agreements? Please share a copy of that report. 5. A detailed project charter, including contracting requirements and listing all of the contracts that have already been awarded by the Newfoundland Government under the name of the Lower Churchill development project? To date Minister Skinner I believe it is fair to say that the people of Labrador have not been afforded the openness, public consultation, due process and due diligence that so many in this great country enjoy. I would go so far to say that you cannot provide us much more than the letter to the editor that was shared above, much less the analysis and reports I have suggested. Shame on you sir and your government for taking your anti-democratic approach to a major development such as this. Sincerely, Charles Martin

  • Charles Martin
    March 09, 2011 - 18:04

    Job well done Chris. That's the first down in this house of cards...

  • Don
    March 03, 2011 - 17:31

    Chris Montague is right, this project is being rammed through. In the end, Premier Dunderdale will become another Joey Smallwood, responsible for burdening the people of Newfoundland with another money losing hydro-electric project in Labrador just like the Upper Churchill project. What amazes me is that despite the fact that Newfoundlanders know what a financial scalping Newfoundland received as a result of the Upper Churchill project, they want their Government to do them same stupid thing all over again with the Lower Churchill. How unbelievably stupid is that? The Lower Churchill project will be a money losing venture which will drain the coffers of Newfoundland just like the Upper Churchill project did. I cannot understand why people continue to believe the baloney that the Government of Newfoundland continues to pump out. The old saying goes: Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I guess nobody in the Government of Newfoundland got that memo or bothered to read it. Either the Government is in denial or they are totally out of touch with reality. Amazing!

  • barbara colbourne
    March 03, 2011 - 14:45

    Where is the rat that deserted the sinking ship now? Did I, or did I not say Danny was running away at a stretch gallop? He knew this was going to blow up in his face and being the megalomaniac that he is would just not be able to handle his fall from grace. I hate to say it BUT "I told you so."

  • Robert
    March 03, 2011 - 11:41

    Well well, citizens in a region with a low population are asking for their fair share, and they didn't even have to take down any flags! How is this any different than the NL government demanding a bigger stake in the offshore? What's good for the goose... I can't wait to see the hypocrites try to rationalize the government's position!

  • holy smokes
    March 03, 2011 - 09:38

    Didn't Dan the Immaculate, profess this was a done deal???? And wasn't it touted by Dan the Immaculate's supporters also profess the the Metis were just "blowin' smoke" and jumpin' on the "BAND" wagon!!!! NOTHING happens until ALL concerns have been addressed and agreed on.......nothing!!!