Letter: Muskrat Falls protesters had legitimate grievances

Published on April 22, 2017

Protesters made their feelings known at the Muskrat Falls site.

©Submitted photo

Protest must be a meaningful component in dispute resolution.

Pierre Trudeau said in 1956 that the suppression of the right to strike transforms trade unions into institutions in the service of capitalism, and its profitability, rather than institutions in the service of the working class.

Similarly, if the right to protest is suppressed then it transforms “protest” into a benign process in the service of capitalism and bureaucratic diktat. Protest must be a meaningful component in dispute resolution.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are these: does a corporation have the right to obtain injunctions that effectively undertake to apply violence to enforce the status quo, even in the face of scientific evidence that this would result in methylmercury poisoning? Is that a moral and just use of state power?
If we agree that the answer is yes, then we have to start looking at the actions of the state and the legal instruments they employ, such as injunctions, as part and parcel of what can only be described as a dictatorship of the bureaucracy.
Independent researchers from Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of Manitoba and Harvard University conducted a comprehensive peer-reviewed study of the Lake Melville estuary. They found that Nalcor’s proposed reservoir-clearing plan would result in unsafe levels of methylmercury bioaccumulating in the food web of the Lake Melville estuary. This contradicted Nalcor’s claim that the effects of methylmercury bioaccumulation downstream would be negligible.
The response to this by Nalcor was to obtain an injunction to prevent water protectors from entering the worksite at Muskrat Falls. This was done so that they could partially flood the reservoir. It should not be that in the face of scientific evidence the court system, and injunctions in particular, facilitate corporate agendas that will lead to the poisoning of the environment and the further destruction of the way of life of indigenous communities.
The focus on Justin Brake’s violation of a court injunction is, whether intentional or not, a strategy aimed at the obfuscation and presentation of an ahistorical perspective about the use of injunctions (state power) as a method to silence political dissent and to avoid dealing with the grievances of indigenous political communities within Canada.

Jamie Simudzai Keats
St. John’s