Innu racism allegations taken seriously, says Nalcor official

Nalcor's vice-president for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project says his company investigates and takes seriously all complaints of racism at the Lower Churchill construction site.

Innu chief Simeon Tshakapesh threatening blockade if alleged incidents don't stop

Nalcor vice-president Gilbert Bennett says his company has an agreement with the Innu Nation on how to deal with allegations of racism. (CBC)

Nalcor's vice-president for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project says his company investigates and takes seriously all complaints of racism at the Lower Churchill construction site.

"We will not tolerate racism and discrimination at the site," said Gilbert Bennett.

On Tuesday, Natuashish chief Simeon Tshakapesh said he had spent the past two weeks collecting stories of alleged racism against Innu workers at the Muskrat Falls construction site. He added that unless the situation for Innu workers improves, the Innu will block the road to the area.

More than 80 Innu work at the site.

The Innu had previously blocked the road last April after an Innu woman working as a cleaner at the site heard a worker making a racial slur. That worker was later dismissed.

Bennett said Nalcor's impacts and benefits agreement with the Innu Nation has strict guidelines in place to quash racism.

Issues between Innu and other workers identifed

However, Bennett said the company had identified issues between the Innu and other workers at the site. Bennett said depending on the situation, the conflict could be remedied by something as simple as asking workers to make apologies.

"There is a spectrum between something that's inappropriate and ultimately could be considered illegal, and other issues that really don't turn out to be anything," said Bennett.

He added that Nalcor has also hired an Innu contractor who has been delivering mandatory cultural awareness training to all workers at Muskrat Falls. 

"We try to raise the level of sensitivity among the entire group of workers on the site," said Bennett.

Bennett said Nalcor has had a "solid" working relationship with the Innu nation, and keeps the organization informed on investigations into alleged incidents of racism.

"The support system, the processes, the relationship with the Innu Nation are all in place, and we will continue to manage these issues, these concerns, as we go forward with construction," he said.