Nalcor’s Bennett apologizes for Muskrat Falls protest sign removal

Derek Montague The Labradorian
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Says snowclearing reason sign was placed at back of clearing instead of in its original location at the front

In an interview with the Labradorian on Friday Gilbert Bennett, Nalcor Vice President, Lower Churchill Project, said he took personal responsibility for the removal of a Muskrat Falls protest sign and apologized over the incident.

Gilbert Bennett, Nalcor Vice President, Lower Churchill Project, speaks at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre on Friday Dec. 13. He was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to celebrate the success of the Labrador Aboriginal Training Program. — Photo by Derek Montague

However, he cited snow clearing as the reason the sign was replaced on the clearing — not at the front where it had been originally and visible to motorists on the Trans-Labrador Highway — but at the back of the clearing and lower to the ground.

The controversy started More than a week ago when Nalcor removed the anti-Muskrat Falls project sign which read: "STOP, MUSKRAT FALLS PROJECT, DEATH OF 8 RIVERS, TRAMPLED RIGHTS, MAKE WORK PROJECT, CORPORATE WELFARE."

The sign was located in the “safety zone,” which was constructed following Nalcor’s court injunction against the NunatuKavut Community Council last year, which prevents people from protesting within 50 metres of the Muskrat Falls work site. The court order states that protestors are allowed to use signage as part of their demonstrations inside the safety zone.

After the sign was removed, Nalcor quickly put it back up, realizing that a mistake had been made.

“First and foremost, we apologize for taking the sign down,” Bennett said. “The court order says that signage is permitted. We looked at that and said the sign needs to be there. So, it went back and we’re fully supportive of people’s desire, need … to express an opinion.”

“It was a corporate decision and I’m responsible for the project … whatever happens at the project I’m ultimately responsible.”

When The Labradorian first contacted a Nalcor representative about the incident on Dec. 6, an email was sent from Gilbert Bennett, stating, "Nalcor had some concerns expressed about the sign and the company made a decision to remove it; however, upon further consideration we realized that decision was not appropriate and we have placed the sign back. We do respect the rights of those who have objections to the project to share those objections in this manner.”

When asked if Nalcor could provide specifics about the concerns it had about the sign, the email response stated, "No, just that there were concerns expressed originally, but the sign has since been put back."

On Friday, however, Bennett explained that he and others were taken by surprise to see that a sign was standing in the safety zone for such a long period of time.

“I think the view was that, that was an area where you’d have people come by and they would express (their viewpoints),” said Bennett, when asked why the sign was taken down in the first place.

“We weren’t really expecting to see signs erected there permanently …”

On the night of Dec. 6, two of the sign makers, Jim and John Learning, went back to the safety zone after hearing that the sign was put back up.

Once at the site they discovered that the sign wasn’t put back in the right spot. Originally, the sign was at the front of the clearing, in plain view for people to see as they drove past on the Trans Labrador Highway.

Now, however, it was at the back of the clearing and much lower to the ground than before.

Bennett explained that Nalcor put it back in a different spot because they didn’t want to damage the sign when crews have to perform snow removal duties in the area.

“We looked at the site, and we have to maintain the site. We have to do snow clearing,” Bennett said. “So, whether it was front or back, I didn’t have a particular perspective … operationally, the fellas looked at it and said the sign needs to go in a place where it could not be damaged, because we don’t want that to happen either …”

On Dec. 7, Jim and John Learning returned to the safety zone, once more, to put the sign back in its original spot.

A day later, Jim filed a complaint with the RCMP, accusing Nalcor of theft.

Today, RCMP Cpl. Rick Mills could not comment on whether or not the investigation is still ongoing, because the case’s investigator was in court.

Organizations: Trans-Labrador Highway, NunatuKavut Community Council, RCMP Trans Labrador Highway.Now

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Recent comments

  • W Bagg
    December 17, 2013 - 03:14

    Snowclearing..............really.............we aren't stupid!

  • Cashin Delaney
    December 16, 2013 - 20:29

    "So, it went back and we’re fully supportive of people’s desire, need … to express an opinion.” Bullshit. His actions and attitude are well documented. Gilbert Bennett's public actions and attitudes do not support peoples desire to express an opinion, or become informed. Anyone who has attended the amount of public meetings (the one in CBS on Guy Fawkes Night was classic Bennett!) that I have, will likely hold a similar opinion. Williams and Harper blessed MF based on end-of-term-cronyism, and tar-sands-sky-carbon, respectively. River mercury, elevated temperatures, North Spur, and all the rest of the REAL dangers are left out of the financially-framed XMAS round of online debate. Journalists are just feeding us, what they are fed. Gross. If not for the bloggers, we wouldn’t even have a voice that our children can read in the future. Whether it gets done, or gets halted by the courts, is still a mystery, and may not even be relevant to the amount of money that gets wasted. What would Izaak Walton Killam say about all this, after giving us Fortis? Can the ghost of Lord Beaverbrook save us from Muskrat Falls?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 16, 2013 - 17:31

    Can't even be honest about a court ordered right to protest. What does that say about the honesty regarding the data, the analysis, the point of view, the media representations, the decisions about the Muskrat Falls Project itself?

  • Darks
    December 16, 2013 - 16:57

    Really fascinates me how quick liars can change their wasn't a problem before but became a problem for snow clearing...really you think all of us are that stunned...I know they call us stupid Newfies on the mainland but our own people..come on boy..GROW UP ITS JUST A SIGN..AND WHY DOES IT BOTHER YOU SO MUCH...LIKE THE OLD SAYING GOES...THE TRUTH HURTS....CHEERS