Standing up for Mother Earth

Derek Montague
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Port Hope Simpson teen starts indiegogo account to help pay off father’s court fine

Happy Valley-Goose Bay—In December 2012, Dennis Woodrow Burden of Port Hope Simpson took a freshly sharpened axe and chopped halfway through a hydro pole connected to the Muskrat Falls worksite.

Dennis Woodrow Burden (second from left) waits for the judge’s decision with a group of supporters while in provincial court.

In Burden’s mind, this was the best way to spread the message to people about the environmental dangers associated with the hydroelectric megaproject.

“Why do I do this? I got no choice. They are killing nine rivers here. They are going to run a transmission line south, they’re going to dam every river,” Burden told The Labradorian before he began chopping. “The planet cannot support this. It’s suicide. I am doing this for my kids and their kids.”

Burden stopped chopping before the pole could collapse, saying that he didn’t want to endanger the lives of the onlookers who gathered to watch him.

Nonetheless, on Jan. 8 in provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Burden was ordered to pay an $8,000 restitution fee and was given 12 months’ probation.

Burden has been given a three-year period to pay the restitution fee, which is a lot of money for the seasonal fisherman with a family to look after.

But now, Burden will not have to bear the full cost of the fine, thanks to his 17-year-old daughter, Regan.

In recent days, Regan set up a crowdfunding account on indiegogo.com, titled “Convicted for standing up for Mother Earth,” to help raise money for her father to pay the restitution.

Regan says that, after her father’s court hearing, a lot of people came up with fundraising ideas, like a benefit concert. That’s when she got the idea to set up the indiegogo account, a  popular way to fundraise for causes using Internet money transfers.

“My father was really stressed about paying the fine. But for people to come forward and support him is really great,” says Regan.

“My father is a firm believer in preventing the Muskrat Falls project. He cares so much about Labrador and the land.”

After the first full day of the account’s existence, $600 had been raised, through six different donors.

“I feel like it’s pretty great,” says Regan. “We only got it set up last night after supper.”

One of the first donors was Brandon Pardy, who gave $150. Pardy wanted to donate because, he says, not many people take a firm stance based on their beliefs.

“I don’t condone damaging property (but) not enough people in Labrador stand up for what they believe in,” says Pardy.

“And $8,000 might come out of his kids’ mouths, or his kids’ education.”

Burden says he had no idea his teenage daughter was planning to set up the account. When he found out about it, he was overcome with pride, he says.

“It was quite overwhelming. I just gave her a hug, that’s all.”

Burden hopes a lot of money gets raised, because it would prove that many other people also oppose the Muskrat Falls project and want to protect the land. The money would also, of course, help him pay off a hefty fine.

“It would mean a lot. It would mean that there are people out there who care about the future of this planet,” says Burden.

“And I’m not sure how I would manage (the fine). I am definitely not a rich man when it comes to dollars.”

The indiegogo campaign will last 60 days, at which point all the money raised (whether it’s $8,000 or less) will be transferred to a bank account in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

“Of course, it’ll be ideal to raise all $8,000, but any amount will be great,” says Regan.

“I fully support my father for standing up for what he believes in … and I don’t think enough people stand up for what they believe in.”

The Labradorian

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Port Hope Simpson Labrador

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