Sarah Leo joins the rare flight to Nutak at Nain. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
The day after the on-air announcement of sanction of the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject, while the provincial government was briefing its political opposition on new energy legislation, the Government of Nunatsiavut was issuing a reminder of its position on the project.
In a statement, the aboriginal government representing Labrador Inuit noted concerns it raised recently about the project, with Nunatsiavut President Sarah Leo saying those concerns have been dismissed by the provincial government.
The statement quoted from Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s televised speech, wherein the premier referenced the project’s being able to progress because of “grand partnerships” achieved with Labrador’s aboriginal peoples.
“The premier left the impression the Nunatsiavut Government endorses Muskrat Falls, and indicated that we have been consulted on the project,” Leo stated. “That is simply not the case.”
The Nunatsiavut Government has collectively made note of rights established under the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement.
“The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador fails to accept our rights and titles, despite what the premier may want people of the province to believe,” Leo stated. “We fought long and hard to negotiate the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement. It’s very unfortunate the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is not prepared to honor the spirit of that Constitutionally-protected document.”
The statement made it clear the aboriginal government has not been satisfied with discussions on the project with the provincial government to date.
It also stated one of the stipulations for the federal loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls project was aboriginal consultations be completed to the satisfaction of the federal government.
The Nunatsiavut Government have raised their concerns publicly on previous occasions. On Nov. 28, government members flew into St. John’s and held a press conference wherein the government outlined early results of a research and monitoring project on mercury in Lake Melville, downstream from Muskrat Falls.
"Given the clear lack of work done by Nalcor and the Newfoundland and Labrador government, we have approached both Nalcor and the Newfoundland and Labrador government to provide funding and resources to help with our program," said First Minister Darryl Shiwak.
"To date these requests have fallen on deaf ears." Nalcor Energy vice-president Gilbert Bennett responded at the time saying there was a difference of opinion between the company and the aboriginal government on both how far mercury release from the project might extend, and how monitoring should progress, specific to the project.
Bennett said Nalcor is still not expecting to see environmental effects far downstream of Muskrat Falls, reaching across Lake Melville and into the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area.