Petition demanding review of North Spur dam delivered to government

Groups hold simultaneous events in St. John’s and Muskrat Falls

Published on May 10, 2017

Angus Andersen of Nain, presents a petition to NDP Leader Earl McCurdy to present to the House of Assembly as Daniel Miller (right) of the group Solidarity with Labrador, looks on. The presentation came outside Confederation Building Tuesday during a small rally on behalf of the Grand River Keepers end Labrador Land Protectors. The petition is calling for a full external, independent review of the North Spur near the Muskrat Falls project Site.

©Joe Gibbons

About 30 people showed up on the steps of Confederation building in St. John’s on May 9 to deliver a petition to government calling for an independent review of the North Spur dam at Muskrat Falls.

The petition, which has over 1,000 signatures, was presented by supporters of Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. and the Labrador Land Protectors.

The North Spur has been a source of controversy since the inception of the project, with many doubting the stability of the dam and subsequently the safety of those living downstream.

The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay commissioned a study in 2016 regarding what would happen if the dam were to fail. The report showed catastrophic damage to the town and the complete destruction of the Town of Mud Lake.

Prior to the petition being delivered parts of it were read to the crowd by Angus Anderson of Nain.

“We believe the well-being and safety of our families take priority over economic considerations,” he said.

They reject any Nalcor led science, he said, and want an independent review separate from the Crown Corporation.

Anderson also read from a letter co-written by Vice-President of GRL and organizer of the petition, Roberta Benefiel and Marjorie Flowers of the LLP Advisory Council.

The purpose of the review, the letter said, would be to restore confidence in Nalcor and to validate the safety of the dam.

“People’s lives are at stake as well as homes and infrastructure. We demand that the well-being and safety of our families be paramount.”

While this event was happening in St. John’s a group of over a dozen Labrador Land Protectors and members of GRL went to the Muskrat Falls site and five of them walked to the North Spur.

Denise Cole, one of the five who walked to the North Spur, said it was not a demonstration; it was a ceremonial walk where they went to lay medicine, ask for protection with song and prayer, and pray to honour the land, water, and ancestors. Having that happen simultaneously with the event in St. John’s was important, Cole said.

“I felt it was a powerful act of unity and we all hope that government will take this request seriously and honour it by ordering an independent review of the North Spur as expressed in the letter from GRL and LLP along with the petition and various letters of support,” Cole said.

Three of the five who walked to the Spur are currently being charged with violating the Nalcor injunction against protesting at the site, something Cole said they didn’t even consider as they were performing a spiritual ceremony.

“We did not consider the injunction and those already charged. I told people I was going to perform the ceremony and invited anyone to join me; they were the protectors who chose to. They all said I wouldn't be made to go alone.”

Some people's spirituality take them inside a building to a church as is their right as Canadian citizens, Cole said, and they went to their church, which is on the land of their ancestors.

Cole said they believe the two events created a renewed commitment of solidarity and government was forced to hear the voices of the people regarding the North Spur.

“We hope this achieved success and accountability in the next steps that government and Nalcor takes regarding the Muskrat Falls project. They cannot jeopardize lives downstream, whether it’s poisoning from methyl mercury or drowning from the North Spur dam failure. We hold them responsible now and into the future.”

Letter of support from the Council of Canadians, Nunatsiavut Government, Sierra Club of Canada and the town councils of Cartwright, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Mud Lake, and North West River were also presented to Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper, who accepted the petition on behalf of Premier Ball.