Nfld. & Labrador

Council of Canadians rails against Muskrat Falls, CETA at annual conference

The Council of Canadians is focusing on some local issues during its national conference in St. John's.

Group's national convention being held in St. John's takes aim at local issues

Council of Canadians president Maude Barlow, filmmaker Avi Lewis and actor Greg Malone all voiced their opposition to the Muskrat Falls project at the launch of the group's annual meeting in St. John's. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The Council of Canadians is focusing on some local issues during its national conference this weekend in St. John's.

At the opening news conference on Friday, president Maude Barlow and several speakers railed against the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

"You're going to create a reservoir of poison, a huge reservoir of methyl mercury that's going to destroy Lake Melville and Rigolet will be unlivable," said Greg Malone, an actor and environmentalist.

Inuit in Labrador have objected to the project and an increase in mercury downstream in communities like Rigolet that rely on wild fish, birds and seals.

The province has promised to closely monitor mercury levels in the water, animals and people, and post health advisories if levels get too high.

Protesters gather outside the Aboriginal Affairs office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to protest the Muskrat Falls project (Katie Breen/CBC)

"When they oppose something like Muskrat Falls we oppose it with them," said Maude Barlow, president of the Council of Canadians.

Documentary filmmaker Avi Lewis joined the calls to halt the project.

"The Muskrat Falls project, which will be disastrous for the Indigenous communities in that area, is expensive, wasteful, unnecessary and toxic on many levels," he said.

Free trade also under fire

The conference will also feature a talk from José Bové, a European member of parliament in France that has campaigned against the pending Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe.

He highlighted the effect it will have on the fishery. For example, the province has to drop requirements that fish caught off Newfoundland and Labrador be processed here.

"I think this is completely unfair," he said.

European Member of Parliament José Bové was initially prevented from entering Canada, but the decision was overturned after public pressure (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Bové almost wasn't able to speak at the conference. Canadian border officers initially turned him away because of an old criminal conviction.

That decision was quickly overturned.

"If there wasn't so much pressure I'm not sure I could be here today," he said.

About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.