Nfld. & Labrador

Innu grand chief calls for end to Muskrat Falls protest

After meeting with with the president of Nalcor, Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee says it's time for protesting workers at the Muskrat Falls site to get back to work.

'The protest has made its point, loud and clear,' says Anastasia Qupee

Grand Chief for the Innu Nation in Labrador Anastasia Qupee wants workers at the Muskrat Falls work site to stop protesting and return to work this week. (CBC)

After meeting with with the president of Nalcor, Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee says it's time for protesting workers at the Muskrat Falls site to get back to work.

Anastasia Qupee said she is satisfied with both an apology that Nalcor president and CEO Ed Martin made to an assaulted worker at the site, as well as Nalcor's commitment to the impact benefits agreement (IBA) between the company and it's workers.

"I appreciate that Mr. Ed Martin addressed the issue and apologized to the young man," she told CBC's Labrador Morning on Monday.

"For us, what triggered the issue around what happened and has been dealt with," she said.

"To me, that was the important thing, and now the second thing that we're working towards is that all of the parties involved can work together to support that IBA process and have that fully implemented."

She said Martin spent all day and evening on Sunday meeting with the victim as well as elders with the Innu councils to hear their concerns, and to work on ensuring future acts of racism and violence do not take place.

She said Nalcor's commitment to the IBA should be enough to satisfy the protestors, and urges them to return to work on Monday.

"The protest has made its point loud and clear, but we have to go back to the IBA," she said.

"I hope that the individuals at the protest site will support the Innu Nation moving forward and end the protest, so that everyone can go back to work."

As of Monday morning, there were only six to 10 protestors still seen at the main gate of the Muskrat Falls site, and reports say none of those still there were Quebec Innu.

Innu worker still off the job after getting kicked in the head

Meanwhile, the Innu worker that was assaulted at the Muskrat Falls site says he's still off work after being kicked in the head by a colleague last week.

Javaron Gregoire said the worker who kicked him did so in retaliation. Gregoire complained about the worker once before, resulting in the man's suspension.

An Innu worker at the Muskrat Falls construction site says he's still off work until later this month with a possible concussion, after he says another worker kicked him in the head. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Gregoire said the alleged assault, however, caught him completely off guard.

"I just felt a big bang on the back of my head and then I was down on the gravel to pick my helmet up," he told CBC's Labrador Morning.

A week before the kicking incident, Gregoire said the same man had made racist comments against him and people from Natuashish, calling them "gas sniffers."

I made quite a mess for reporting that. None of it would have happened it I hadn't reported.- Javaron Gregoire

Gregoire said the contract worker, who has since been fired by the company he worked for, confronted him at the work site around midnight, asking if Gregoire was the one who got him suspended.

When Gregoire said that he filed a complaint about racist comments made to another worker, the man asked Gregoire to go outside.

According to Gregoire, he didn't expect a fight, but rather thought the man wanted to yell at him or tell him off.

"I was the first one out the door and I went down, climbed down the stairs about halfway down and then I felt something in the back of my head," he said.

"Quickly got up after I got knocked down and then I knew he kicked me and asked him, I asked him what he did that for and he said, 'For getting me suspended.'"

On Friday, RCMP arrested and charged a 23-year-old Goose Bay man with assault in relation to the Aug. 9 incident.

Turning a blind eye

Gregoire said he was told by medical staff that he might have a concussion because he felt nauseated after the kick. He's off work until Aug. 26.

According to Gregoire, there were other people around who saw what happened, but he said everyone pretended they didn't see anything.
Innu protesters blocked access to the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric site Thursday. (CBC)

"There were like 10 people and none of them came forward when I asked for a witness. Not even one person said anything," he said.

"They just watched. They walked by like nothing had happened."

However, he said after he told some friends in the break room what happened, it took only five minutes for the foremen and managers to respond and seek out Gregoire.

Gregoire said when he later approached the Goose Bay man, there was yet another incident.

"I saw the guy who kicked me in the head again in the hallway and I told him to come here and wait ... and he came at me and tried punching me, but I moved back a little," he said.

"He [asked] if I'm going to get him suspended again and I said, yes, for doing that, and he tried swinging at me again."

Feeling guilt

The alleged assault sparked a response from the Innu Nation, who said this isn't the first incident of racism at the site.

Protesters were present at the North Spur throughout the weekend in a silent show of support for Innu workers.

As a result, some workers were unable to access the site. Gregoire said he feels badly that colleagues are off work because of the incident.

"I made quite a mess for reporting that. None of it would have happened it I hadn't reported," he said. "A lot of people are off work right now."

However, he said he's also happy to see some action being taken to address racism at the Muskrat Falls work site.

Nalcor is set to meet with the Innu Nation on Monday to address the issue.