UPDATE: Worker who made racial slur about Innu removed from work site: Nalcor

Derek Montague
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Protest ended, Innu satisfied with action taken

Mushuau Innu First Nation Chief Simeon Tshakapesh challenges a security guard during Thursday’s protest. The protest happened after two Innu workers on the Muskrat Falls site said they had overheard a racial slur referring to Innu people. Early Thursday afternoon, dozens of protesters came and blocked the entrance to the Muskrat Falls worksite. — Photo by Derek Montague/The Labradorian

Nalcor Energy says it has removed the person alleged to have made racial slurs about Innu at the Muskrat Falls constuction site in Labrador.

In a statement late today, Nalcor said it met with the Innu Nation to discuss the incident that led to a protest by Innu workers that shut down the site.

Members of Nalcor Energy and Innu Nation's leadership met in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The statement says that on Wednesday, Nalcor was advised that a contractor at the Muskrat Falls site had made racial slurs about Innu.

Nalcor said it has a zero tolerance for any workplace discrimination, and that it has processes outlined in the Impacts and Benefits Agreement (IBA) with the Innu Nation to work through workplace incidents of this nature.

“Nalcor undertook an immediate investigation of the allegations. As a resolution to this issue, Nalcor has removed the person from the work site,” read the statement.

 Ed Martin, CEO Nalcor Energy, said the meeting today was very productive and conducted in an open manner.

"We are committed to a positive and respectful partnership with the Innu of Labrador and we look forward to moving ahead together with this important development," he said.

Innu Nation Grand Chief Prote Poker said, "Our Innu community members appreciate the swift action of Nalcor to bring this situation to a satisfactory resolution so that our Innu members working at the project site feel safe and respected."

•••

The protest in Innu workers has ended at the Muskrat Falls work site in Labrador.

Nalcor and the Innu nation reached an agreement late this afternoon and details are to be released later today.

RCMP officers were also seen leaving the site.

(Full story in The Weekend Telegram).

••••

(Earlier story)

The Innu protesters have vacated the Muskrat Falls work site, in favour of half a dozen Innu security guards. The guards are there to make sure the site remains inactive, while the controversy over an alleged racial slur incident continues.

All Muskrat Falls workers left early Thursday evening, after the protesters infiltrated the work site.

This morning, only the Innu security, the Nalcor security guards, and four police officers are at the location.

One member of the Innu leaders compared the situation to a “cease fire.”

According to one Muskrat Falls' worker, who says he was on site when the protestors began kicking people out, the demonstration became quite unsettling.

“They were banging on all the doors yelling ‘get the (explicit) out, you got one chance’ and basically left 200 people out in the cold to wait for buses to bring them elsewhere,” said the worker.

Innu Leaders are scheduled to have a meeting with Nalcor officials, including President and CEO Ed Martin, today to try and resolve the situation.

Mushuau Innu Nation Chief Simeon Tshakapesh said that demands will include: the employee, who allegedly made the racial slur that sparked this incident, to be immediately fired; and for IKC-ONE from Quebec (the contractor) to be replaced at Muskrat Falls with IKC-ONE from Ontario.

“I don’t want him (employee alleged to have made the racial slur) here,” says Tshakapesh. “We are requesting also that IKC should be removed themselves. They’re from Quebec, and we want IKC from Ontario to take over the contract we have with Nalcor.”

A spokesperson from Nalcor says that the alleged incident is under investigation and is being taken seriously.

“As soon as we were aware, Wednesday morning, Nalcor took immediate action to investigate the situation,” said the spokesperson.

“On Wednesday morning they were meeting with individuals involved in this alleged incident.

“Every individual, no matter who you’re working for, there’s things that are mandatory — such as cultural and sensitivity training, diversity, equity — these are things every worker will go through.”

Representatives from the IKC-ONE office in Happy Valley-Goose were unavailable for comment this morning.

.....

Previous story

Dozens of Innu protesters gathered at the entrance to the Muskrat Falls worksite Thursday, angry over an incident in which a project manager was allegedly overheard making a racial slur about Innu workers.

By 5 p.m. most operations at the site appeared to have been shut down, with workers trying to get home being blocked by protesters.

By early evening, almost all the protesters had gathered deep inside the worksite, where many trailers are set up. Security personnel at the scene appeared to make no effort to stop protesters driving through. By 6 p.m. the protesters decided no work was going to be done that night. Today’s work shift is also reportedly cancelled.

“At the moment the site is being shut down,” said Innu Deputy Grand Chief Jeremy Andrew. “All the (workers) that are on site are being asked to leave the site.”

Two Innu cleaners at the worksite say they overheard a project manager make a racial slur regarding Innu people.

“At the time we were cleaning the safety room,” said Amanda Benuen, one of the cleaners.

 

“We were half-way done what we were doing and then (he) walked in,” Benuen said.

“He sounded a bit angry when he walked in … on his way out, that’s when he said (to another person) ‘Bunch of (expletive) Indians on the site can’t do a (expletive) thing.’”

The other witness, Victoria Andrew, agreed with Benuen’s version of events and claimed she had heard the exact same thing.

A representative from Nalcor said the incident is under investigation.

At about 1:30 p.m., a swarm of Innu protesters gathered at the Muskrat Falls entrance and quickly used pickup trucks to block the entrance so no one could get in or out.

One of the first Innu leaders to show up at the site was Mushuau Innu Chief Simeon Tshakapesh, who was clearly fired up about the reported incident.

“The racism has got to stop,” said Tshakapesh. “That’s why we’re here today, the racism, the way our people are being treated.”

 “I don’t give a (expletive) about Nalcor. I’m more concerned about how my people are treated,” says Tshakapesh. “I’m worried about people’s rights here…the people are being treated like (expletive) God damn dirt. It ain’t going to happen anymore.”

Eventually, the protesters, as well as some Innu leaders, began driving into the heart of the construction site. Dozens of protesters eventually showed up, effectively shutting down work for the rest of the day.

The Innu leaders who were on site said they were waiting to have a teleconference with Nalcor officials.

Those who were scheduled to work the night, starting at 6 p.m., were told not to come in for their shift.

Although Innu leaders such as Tshakapesh, Andrew, and Sheshatshiu Innu Chief Andrew Penashue were present, the demonstration was a grassroots movement organized by angry residents of the Innu community.

 “This is a community-led protest. The Innu Nation never sent anyone up here, or the Band Council,” said Andrew.

Andrew believes that the alleged racial slur is not an isolated incident, and may be just the tip of the iceberg.

“I think there’s issues of workplace policies and harassment,” said Andrew.

“I think there’s a lot of incidents … going on. And I think it’s gotten to the point where nothing seems to be (getting) resolved.”

 

The Labradorian

 

 

 

Organizations: Band Council

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • So What
    April 20, 2013 - 09:53

    What ever happend to freedom of speech? I hope the dismissed worker sues the company to the highest height. And besides, all the person said was "(bleeping) Indians." The protesters were first nations. The first nations call themselves "Indians" (ie the Newfoundland Federation of Indians) so it is not a derogitory term. While the person may have been confused between Metis, Indians, Innu, and put the protesters in the wrong group, it is a simple mistake much like confusing someone from England with someone from Scotland. He expressed fustration with (bleeping) protesters disrupting his job, I sympathize with him.

  • concerned citizen
    April 20, 2013 - 09:49

    I don't think we should be spending 10 billion on a project we don't need in the first place. Taxpayers money going into a sinkhole so the rich get richer. SNC Lavalin was also a great choice by the premier to run this project. What a joke!

  • Outrage
    April 20, 2013 - 07:03

    What ever happend to freedom of speech? I hope the dismissed worker sues to the highest height.

  • Brian
    April 19, 2013 - 17:55

    There is no excuse for racists comments. No matter what race you are, you are hired to work to the best of your ability . If companies hire individuals based on race and not qualifications then ----it is at their peril . I think that the Innu want special treatment and Nalcor along with the taxpayers will pay the price. It is obvious that the individual alleged to have made the offensive comment was convicted by the Innu Nation Chief before he had a chance to defend himself. The tail is wagging the dog.

  • laura
    April 19, 2013 - 15:00

    Good for you Innu people, don't back down until this vile racist person is fired...and all other who use the same language will think twice....I hate racists, NO RACE IS BETTER THAN ANY OTHER RACE.

    • NIBS
      April 20, 2013 - 06:51

      Then, Laura, you hate everyone. Show me ANY human being who hasn't made a racist remark at some point in their life? Including Innu. I don't condone making racist remarks but 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'.

  • Winston Adams
    April 19, 2013 - 12:28

    Racism in the USA is in the open. In Canada and Nfld it is subtle and sometimes not so subtle. My father met the Innu people in Labrador in the 1930s. They were ignored by our own government. Some were starving. He wrote " they have been robbed and cheated by those of our generation and our forefathers". Little has changed, except the law now recognises their rights. And aboriginal rights, in some cases, exceed the rights of others. Too bad we as citizens fail to acknowledge the very laws we say we respect. As janitors, these Innu may not have high tech jobs, but should not be mistreated by racist remarks. Through a hard struggle the Innu have asserted their rights. They were totally ignored when the Upper Churchill was developed, a complete injustice. There are those who would ignore and abuse them at present. As a people, they have suffered more than most in this world. As a country, Canada, needs to change this. As a province, Nfld needs to change this. Respect is a necessary first step. Give these people respect and justice. The attitude of some fellow Nflders and others is shameful. Those of the mindset of Randy Simms should be fired from the Muskrat Falls site. Of course, that may leave few left. I applaud those Innu ladies , Amanda and Victoria for their courage to report this abuse.

  • Kirk
    April 19, 2013 - 10:52

    GOOD JOB INNU PEOPLE!!! do not take racism, and challenge it in every form. Labrador is behind you.

  • John Smith how can you agree with Racism?
    April 19, 2013 - 10:43

    John Smith, here you go again, placing the blame where it doesn't below. How can you agree with Racism?

  • John Smith
    April 19, 2013 - 09:50

    There is something much larger, more insidious going on here....It is my belief that the Innu are following a plan to disrupt this project in anyway they can, and that this is what they always intended to do, after they got their money....disgraceful, pathetic and sad...

    • Nalcor Boy
      April 20, 2013 - 06:52

      Lol, you just can't help yourself can you Mike? Do your bosses agree with your assessment?

    • carogers
      April 20, 2013 - 07:08

      Mr. John Smith: The subject matter is two women cleaners were called out of their name by a manager. The Innu of Canada are suffering the same fate as the African American citizens did as second class citizen. Project or no project no person of authority should make such comments about staff. Period. That is where the discussion ends, with the actually problem at hand. You do not assume any motive by the person who takes offense with the language used. The problem person has been removed from the site, the Innu leaders have released a statement appreciating Nalcor's handling of the situation. This puts a sudden stop on your theory doesn't it?? In future comments do not A-S-S-U-M-E you have an inside track on other peoples agenda. You have the same facts as everyone else the rest you made up in your mind, most call that being a shit disturber who will make an Ass of U and ME every time.

  • Racism has to Stop. It Kills.
    April 19, 2013 - 08:12

    Racism against First Nations People around the World has to stop and in particular, for the reason I write this commentary, IT HAS TO STOP AGAINST THE INNU. There is no other solution to the greatest pain faced by First Nations People, than having to deal with Racism. It stunts one's growth. I think the average Newfoundlander and Labradorian can attest to that as well. We all can remember how our natural resources were taken and our location was exploited, aided and abetted by politicians on both sides of government and then we were made to believe that we had nothing to contribute to Canada, despite our Beautiful and very convenient Location in North America, situated on the Atlantic Ocean, with an ample Natural Resource Base. SINCE we opened our eyes we NOW can see we were more important to Ottawa and Canada than any other place in Canada.

  • Keith
    April 19, 2013 - 08:04

    It never ceases to amaze me how this group is above the law in any and everything they do!! They just shut down a megaproject! What do you think would happen if a group of townies or baymen went to shut down MF? We'd all be in jail within hours. I don't agree with racism, but there are channels established to deal with it, and costing the taxpayer by shutting down the site is not one of them.

  • stephen
    April 19, 2013 - 07:12

    Were they looking for a job. lollollol not.

  • rex
    April 19, 2013 - 06:29

    I think that that innu leader wants to have everyone who is not in his group fired, time for those people to deal with the bosses themself, instead of shutting dow a major project, who do those people think they are..I think they are nothing but bullies... and they tell everyone else what to do.. Why can't those worker deal with their union, or company about this. I am a tax payer, and we are paying good money for this project, we should not have delay's .I am sure this could have been handled a lot different., without have a protest....I am so sick of people these days protesting over every little thing. work delays cause alot of people to lose money, Are the Innu people going to pay for all those men who could not work because of this foolish protest.. Grow up

    • carogers
      April 20, 2013 - 07:28

      REX: THE BULLY IS THE PERSON INAUTHORITY WHO DEFAMES ANOTHER PERSON BLACK WHITE YELLOW GREEN OR PURPLE. You are a tax payer well so am I and I have had to put up with BS comments from people and action speaks louder than words. These women called upon the person who had already participated in developing these so called no discrimination policy. Which is nothing but apiece of paper.Do you really think this manager gives a fiddlers xz#$ about a Policy and a few forms that these ladies would have filled out? People protest "every little thing" as you say because they are not the image of the accepted white version and they are spending their entire lives putting up with ignorance from people like you who are not subjected to constant negativity. And know nothing of the struggle of others. Stay in your white perfect world and keep looking out those rose colored glasses because protests are how minds get changed and real people get helped with real problems.