The leader of Labrador's Inuit Métis says a flat-out refusal to negotiate from the Newfoundland and Labrador government has left him no choice but to step up public protests against the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.
"This is a signal," Todd Russell, the president of NunatuKavut, told CBC News on Monday.
"This is a signal that we're going to escalate. We're going to have more intensive, on-the-ground actions, and they will persist over a longer period of time."
Russell said he met with three provincial government ministers in February with what he called "concrete proposals" that would lay out "a reasonable way forward" on development of the Muskrat Falls project. He did not elaborate on his organization's proposal.
Russell said the ministers — Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Felix Collins, and Nick McGrath, responsible for the Labrador Affairs portfolio — "outright refused our offer," which he said forced NunatuKavut's leaders to act.
In November, Nalcor Energy won a permanent injunction in court that forces members of the NunatuKavut Community Council to refrain from blocking access to the site near Muskrat Falls.
In an interview, Russell said his group will respect the court injunction, but will also make its presence known, not only at the site, but also in other Labrador communities.
"We have a right to protest. We will be doing this in a peaceful and orderly way," Russell said.
"But as I've said earlier, there is a growing sense of frustration with this."