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Effort to free elders continues

By Sadie-Rae Werner/Special to The Telegram

Published on July 26, 2017

Protester Sara Tilley outside Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Wednesday.

©Sadie-Rae Werner/Special to The Telegram

Protesters began to gather in front of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday to continue the ongoing protest against the detention of Marjorie Flowers, Jim Learning and Eldred Davis, members of the Labrador Land Protectors.

On Monday, Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe sent a letter to Liberal Premier Dwight Ball in which he said, “The incarceration of Marjorie Flowers at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s is unnecessary and immoral,” and that as an Indigenous Canadian citizen she is merely protecting her culture and way of life.

Lampe called upon Premier Ball to advocate on Flowers’ behalf as the minister of Indigenous Affairs.

In a news release Wednesday, Lampe stated, “To have a woman incarcerated at a men’s prison is shameful and disrespectful, and will do very little in advancing reconciliation and renewing the nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the province’s Indigenous peoples.”

According to St. John’s Centre MHA Gerry Rogers, who is the NDP’s justice critic and who visited Flowers at HMP on Tuesday, Flowers has not voiced any request to be moved elsewhere.  

The NDP has written to Ball asking him to take action on the demands being made by members of the Labrador Land Protectors.

“They are not the demands only of the Land Protectors, but demands being made by people all over the province and they are reasonable, they are actionable and he must take leadership and he must act on them immediately,” Rogers says.

The protesters at HMP have been keeping up to date with the situation in Labrador as much as they can with the help of the families of the detained.

“I know for sure we won’t see anything from the Government of Newfoundland because Minister Parsons, the justice minister, has said he can’t publicly intervene and the premier won’t do anything,” says protester Angus Andersen.

This sentiment was common among the protesters, who believe any support they receive will be found outside the provincial government.

“I’m that glad that they actually wrote a letter, both Nunatsiavut and Nunatukavut, but it’s easy to write a letter and say, ‘OK, what you’re doing is wrong.’ Anyone can do that, but the writing is not as powerful as coming here to stand with us,” Andersen said in response to the actions of the two Indigenous governments.

“I think every voice is useful,” protester Josh Lehr said about the letter sent to the premier.

The protesters would like to see the government meet three demands of the Labrador Land Protectors — a review of the stability of North Spur, an advisory committee on the dangers of methylmercury and a forensic audit of Nalcor.

The also want “the injunctions dropped and these people freed in court,” says protester Adam Dyson of Labrador

Melanie Cuz, an Ojibwa protester, said she hopes “to bring more awareness to the importance of Indigenous issues and how much we can help the general population. … It’s important we all get together as brothers and sisters even though we are very diverse.”