Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale is distancing herself from comments by one of her MHAs that derided protesters’ spiritual claims to Muskrat Falls as "mumbo jumbo."
For the full interview with Premier Kathy Dunderdale, watch the next episode of On Point with David Cochrane on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. NT. On Point Radio airs on Radio One on Fridays at 3:30 p.m. NT.
Lake Melville MHA Keith Russell made the comments during an interview on CBC Radio’s Labrador Morning.
Dunderdale addressed the remarks during a feature interview on this week’s edition of On Point with David Cochrane.
"It is not the official party line," she said. "It’s not my personal view. Freedom of religion brought us to this country, most of us, brought us to this place. And a civil society respects other peoples’ cultures and traditions.
"And we certainly do as a Progressive Conservative government here in the province. And I believe we do as a people here in the province."
Asked if she will talk to Russell, to ask him to rein it in, Dunderdale said: "Absolutely."
In his interview with Labrador Morning, Russell said he has never heard the Muskrat Falls site talked about as a sacred piece of ground that should not be disturbed.
"I don’t buy that," Russell said. "And when somebody comes to try and sell you that, just be wary."
Russell is of aboriginal descent, and served as a member in the Inuit government of Nunatsiavut before being elected to the provincial house of assembly last year.
He said people should consider the motivations of protesters.
"You have people talking about Mother Earth and sacred waters and, you know, spirits flowing through these rivers. And that’s all well and good. But people have to understand too that there is a need for this development. We do need this power.
"I don’t buy into the mumbo jumbo about the trail leading to the Muskrat Falls site as being sacred ground. You can romanticize and sensationalize that particular piece of land all you want, but it is a resource."
A debate will be held in the house of assembly this fall on the hydro megaproject.