Published on September 17, 2012
President of the NunatuKavut Community Council, Todd Russell looks at a piece of artwork from a community member inside the NunatuKavut offices in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. — File photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
Aboriginal group questions whether or not work should be called ‘preliminary’
Having chartered a helicopter and flown over the area around Muskrat Falls, to view preliminary site work being completed for the Lower Churchill development, representatives from the NunatuKavut Community Council are crying foul over what they have seen.
The community council is accusing Nalcor Energy of doing too much, without both required approvals and a sanctioning of the project by the provincial government.
Speaking at a news conference at the council’s offices in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NunatuKavut Community Council leader Todd Russell also accused the government and the project proponent of intentionally keeping the development work secret.
He pointed to a guarded security gate at an access road to the site. “We are denied entrance. Other members of the public are denied entrance,” Russell said.
He proceeded to go through a slideshow of images, suggesting the company has overstepped in its construction of access routes and preliminary site work.
Russell said the aboriginal rights of the people of the NunatuKavut land claim - yet to be accepted for negotiation by government - are being infringed upon, pointing to access to the site being denied to the council’s fishery guardians as an example.
“It is unbelievable that we would have to go to such extreme lengths to get information as to what is happening on our own lands,” Russell stated, referring to the helicopter charter, in a news release issued as the press conference was to get underway.
“We are locked out of the site, denied reports and our aboriginal fisheries guardians were barred from doing a site inspection. Government and Nalcor talk publicly about a project that is about to happen, little does anyone know that construction is proceeding at a very rapid pace behind these closed and guarded gates.”
A slideshow of the council’s aerial photos of Muskrat Falls project work, as taken by the NunatuKavut council, is to be made available at: www.nunatukavut.ca.
Nalcor Energy offered a look at the site work to reporters from media outlets throughout the province in August.
At that time, Lower Churchill lead Gilbert Bennett spoke about the work being completed to date: http://www.thetelegram.com/Video/19323/Muskrat-Falls-work-to-date
The Muskrat Falls dam work has been released from environmental assessment. For more: http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/env_assessment/projects/Y2010/1305/index.html
The NunatuKavut Community Council has previously voiced objection to that environmental review and to the project as a whole.
Earlier this week, the council set up a road “slow down” area, as opposed to a road block, along part of the Trans-Labrador Highway as a form of protest against the project.
“We are looking at our legal options,” Russell said, before also offering to sit down at a table with government.
“In terms of our on the ground action, I can only say to you it will probably become more intense and more direct.”