Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 25, 2016 - 10:00 am

Nunavut Inuit give moral support to Nunatsiavut dam protestors

“Will the federal government uphold its constitutional duty to Inuit of Labrador?”

SARAH ROGERS
Nunatsiavut protesters and hunger strikers gather at a sit-in on Parliament Hill last weekend to protest plans to flood a reservoir in Labrador, which Inuit say will release methylmercury into the waterways. (IMAGE COURTESY OF MAKE MUSKRAT RIGHT/FACEBOOK)
Nunatsiavut protesters and hunger strikers gather at a sit-in on Parliament Hill last weekend to protest plans to flood a reservoir in Labrador, which Inuit say will release methylmercury into the waterways. (IMAGE COURTESY OF MAKE MUSKRAT RIGHT/FACEBOOK)

Inuit along Canada’s east coast are making headlines this month for their fight to protect their traditional food and territory from contamination.

And now Nunavut Inuit have voiced their support for neighbouring Nunatsiavut Inuit in Labrador, who have been protesting for weeks against plans to flood a reservoir in the region.

The Nunatsiavut Government is calling on the federal and provincial governments to demand changes to Nalcor Energy’s Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generation project west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL.

Protesters say the project’s planned flooding of the reservoir will release methylmercury into local waterways, contaminating traditional foods like salmon and seal.

A number of groups in the region have asked Nalcor to clear the reservoir of vegetation and top soil before the flooding begins, which the company says could begin by the end of the month.

In a resolution passed Oct. 20 at its annual general meeting in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. supported the action of their fellow Inuit to “suspend the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project until the negative impacts to Nunatsiavut Inuit, their land, environment and wildlife can be addressed…”

The same day, Iqaluit filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril used her platform at a Toronto film festival, where she screened her documentary Angry Inuk, to call on Nalcor to “make Muskrat right.”

A Harvard University-led study shows that the project would increase the amount of mercy and methylmercury flowing into Lake Melville, accumulating in local wildlife.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed, originally from the Nunatsiavut community of Nain, called the issue “an urgent matter.”

“I have written to the Prime Minister to ask him to fulfill his public commitment to respect the precautionary approach in regulatory decisions, environmental decision-making based on science and establishing new relationships with Inuit on an Inuit-Crown basis—respecting rights and accommodation of those rights,” Obed said in a statement last month.

But the federal government appears to be leaving the issue with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou MP Romeo Saganash raised the issue in question period at the House of Commons Oct. 24: “Will the federal government uphold its constitutional duty to Inuit of Labrador?” he asked.

“I understand that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is working with the proponent, with Indigenous peoples and stakeholders with respect to this project,” responded Jonathan Wilkinson, parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment.

“We expect the province will meet its responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of Canadians.”

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