Muskrat Falls workers enter site by helicopter, bypass protester roadblock
Nalcor cancels day shift, says workers being financially affected by protest
Muskrat Falls workers have started reaching the project site by helicopter, bypassing a blockade of protesters at the construction site.
Universal Helicopters announced on Thursday they had started flying workers to the project site from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
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The company said that although it was owned mostly "by the people of Nunatsiavut," whose government has been supporting the Muskrat Falls protests this week, Universal Helicopters would fulfil the terms of a contract with Nalcor.
"Universal cannot take part in activities that could impact our business against the best interest of our stakeholders," a company release said.
Protesters were allowing workers at the Muskrat Falls project site in Labrador leave through the main ground gate on Thursday, but are not letting them enter.
'Land protectors' block site
Nalcor announced early Thursday morning the day shift at the hydroelectric project in central Labrador was cancelled due to the protesters preventing workers access to the site.
According to Nalcor, 685 people from the Upper Lake Melville region work at the site and are being financially affected by the protest.
A spokesperson from Nalcor also said some workers were stranded at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay airport Wednesday night as a result of the ground blockade.
On Thursday afternoon a new lock was placed on the gate to Muskrat Falls. CBC was told it belongs to the "land protectors of Labrador."
Some protesters opposing the flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir refer to themselves as land protectors.
Later on Thursday, protestors in Happy Valley-Goose Bay walked across the town to MP Yvonne Jones's office.
Three of the the individuals who have started hunger strikes in protest of the Muskrat Falls flooding spoke to the crowd.
Protesters said they wanted action from the top levels of the federal government.
"Justin Trudeau's message was indigenous rights matter. We just [had] reconciliation with the Inuit in terms of residential schools, but yet here we are in an oppressive situation," said Debbie Michelin.
Emily and Brianna Wolfrey drumming on walk across <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/hvgb?src=hash">#hvgb</a> to MP Yvonne Jones' office <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCNL">@CBCNL</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCLabrador">@CBCLabrador</a> <a href="https://t.co/3oQlufudEu">pic.twitter.com/3oQlufudEu</a>—@JacobBarkerCBC
Mayor Snook speaks out
On Wednesday, the provincial government ordered Nalcor to remove more forest cover at the Muskrat Falls reservoir.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook said the announcement isn't enough to satisfy people in his community.
"The announcement yesterday was done in St. John's, and that just added to the frustration," he said.
The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has been supporting the protest. Snook told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning he visited the protest site Wednesday night to see what was going on and to listen to what people had to say.
"One thing that I certainly witnessed and was very clear, people were united in their frustration for this project and this is frustration that's been building for over a decade of advocacy for changes to this project," he said.
"They were united in their grief for this project. No matter which way you look at it, they're going to create that dam and a lot of people are upset.
It's at the 11th hour and frankly people are still not satisfied.- Jamie Snook
According to Snook, protesters aren't interested in mitigation.
"A lot of these people don't want it to happen, period, and whatever happens, really, it's an environmental trauma that's going on there," he said.
"It's at the 11th hour and frankly people are still not satisfied."
Snook said he has written Premier Dwight Ball, who is the minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, to invite him to a town hall meeting to hear firsthand how frustrated people are.
"I hope what happened yesterday is a shift, that there's going to be some more adjustments by the province. We're here and we're ready to meet as soon as possible."
Change, but don't cancel
The Nunatsiavut government on Thursday repeated its demand for full clearing of vegetation and soil from the Muskrat Falls reservoir, before any flooding takes place.
But Nunatsiavut's Natural Resources Minister Darryl Shiwak said the group, which represents Labrador's Inuit, does not want the project stopped.
You can't pull the plug and drain this thing.- Darryl Shiwak
"We've never come out with a position against the project," he told CBC Radio's CrossTalk.
"It's not about being against people working. We feel people need to work. It's about regulators stepping up and doing the right thing."
It's too late to make things right once water is in the reservoir, he said.
"You can't pull the plug and drain this thing. Once it's flooded, the methylmercury will start to increase."
6th day of protest
Thursday marks the sixth continuous day of protests at the Muskrat Falls site. The protesters and the Nunatsiavut government are concerned that methylmercury from the project site could contaminate the Churchill River and food sources in the region.
Nine people were arrested on Monday morning after the protesters were given a court order Sunday evening.
Lineup of trucks waiting to get in site is leaving one by one <a href="https://t.co/aM6CYEmhE2">pic.twitter.com/aM6CYEmhE2</a>—@KatieBreenNL
Protester tells me they stopped 1 vehicle from going in, but did let medical vehicle through. Protesters agreeing to let workers out. <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCNL">@cbcnl</a> <a href="https://t.co/vzaQzzKb8m">pic.twitter.com/vzaQzzKb8m</a>—@JacobBarkerCBC
With files from Marilyn Boone, Katie Breen and Jacob Barker