Both call for judicial review of DFO’s authorization for Nalcor to construct dam
By Andrew Robinson
and The Canadian PRess
Two aboriginal groups in Labrador are challenging a key part of the Muskrat Falls hydro project now under construction on the lower Churchill River.
The Nunatsiavut Government and the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) have filed separate requests for judicial review of the federal government’s decision to authorize the construction of a reservoir.
They’re asking the Federal Court to revisit a decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to grant Nalcor Energy permission to begin work on the dam without properly consulting them.
Nunatsiavut President Sarah Leo said that while her government was consulted on the matter, DFO did not give proper consideration to recommendations concerning Labrador Inuit rights to health and food security.
“We are a government,” said Leo. “We have an agreement. Our agreement clearly defines what needs to be done through the federal government with regards to any environmental assessment. ... We feel the federal government is not honouring the agreement.”
She said recommendations by an independent environmental panel that would mitigate some of the reservoir’s effect within the region were not acknowledged or considered in DFO’s decision.
Her government is concerned that the project will damage recognized Inuit lands.
“The federal government has an ongoing duty to deal with us honourably,” said Leo.
NunatuKavut President Todd Russell, whose group has no federally recognized land claim, said the province has failed to adequately consult his members.
In a news release, NCC said traditional lands, wildlife, and fish habitat will be destroyed during the construction phase. Russell said in the release that the dam’s impact will be felt “for generations to come.”
Reacting to the news of NCC’s similar lawsuit, Leo said she learned of it after the Nunatsiavut Government filed its own lawsuit in Federal Court. She said her government’s court action is unique from NCC’s given the Nunatsiavut Government has a constitutionally protected land claims agreement with Canada.
Crown corporation Nalcor Energy declined comment as it isn’t a party to the motions for review.
No one from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could be immediately reached for comment.
— With files from Ashley Fitzpatrick