Nfld. & Labrador

Bridge-naming ceremony postponed as Innu Nation plans protest

Members of the community say they weren't consulted about the proposal for the Leslie S. Chubbs Memorial Bridge.

Government-organized event was scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday

Jack Penashue helped spearhead a protest of the naming ceremony. The provincial government postponed the event, just three hours before it was to get underway. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The provincial government has postponed a ceremony to unveil a new name for a bridge over the Trans-Labrador Highway, just a few hours before the event was to get underway. 

The bridge, about 75 kilometres south of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, was set to be known as the Leslie S. Chubbs Memorial Bridge.

The postponment of Tuesday's event happened because members of the Innu Nation were ramping up plans to protest the event, which was scheduled at 2 p.m. 

"Innu Nation has a right to be consulted. This needs to be recognized and supported," read a tweet by Innu Nation, just minutes after government announced the event wouldn't happen.   

To name something on Innu lands/territory is being disrespectful to my grandparent's territory.​​​​- Jack Penashue, on Facbeook

"When will government learn that they can't make plans for Innu land and expect Innu to sit back!"

'Everybody was surprised'

Shortly after the postponment was announced, Jack Penashue —  a longtime Innu rights activist and executive director of the Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment Centre — told CBC News it's a small step in the right direction.

"I'm really pleased that the government is actually taking efforts to somehow listen to the Innu about some of the things going on within our land and our territory," he said.

But, he said, it never should have gotten to this point in the first place. 

Penashue, who was one of the main organizers of the protest, said he first learned about the bridge-naming Monday night and "everybody was surprised."

He said an email had been sent to the provincial government that listed naming options for various bridges within Innu territory.

"The government basically stated that we've never stated [suggested names]. Which is totally untrue," he said.

CBC News specifically asked a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Works about the options submitted by the members of the Innu Nation. That question was not answered. 

In an earlier statement, the department said it will review the concerns raised by the Innu Nation before rescheduling the event. 

Penashue stressed he didn't want to cause any negative feelings toward the Chubbs family.

"This is a political statement that we're making and this is our home, in terms of our territory. This is nothing to disrespect the Chubbs family at all," he said.

Chubbs died in 2009 at the age of 54, according to his obituary. 

"Mr. Chubbs was a longtime, dedicated department employee and an advocate for transportation in Labrador who helped plan and construct the Trans-Labrador Highway," reads a statement from the provincial government.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Leslie Chubbs died in 2012 at the age of 81. The bridge was to be named after Leslie Chubbs Jr., who died in 2009 at the age of 54.
    Sep 03, 2019 12:56 PM NT

With files from John Gaudi