Nfld. & Labrador

Keith Russell apologizes for 'mumbo jumbo' remarks

Lake Melville MHA Keith Russell is apologizing for equating the spiritual significance of Muskrat Falls to "mumbo jumbo."

Lake Melville MHA issues written statement in wake of controversial comments last week

Lake Melville MHA Keith Russell is apologizing for equating the spiritual significance of Muskrat Falls to "mumbo jumbo."

Russell’s office said that due to "time constraints," he was not available for an interview with CBC News Tuesday.

But he did release a prepared statement.

Keith Russell is the MHA for Lake Melville.

"With regards to my recent comment about Muskrat Falls, I apologize for my poor choice of words," Russell's statement noted.

"As an aboriginal person, I was raised to respect other's beliefs. My comment was not intended to be a blanket statement about spirituality or aboriginal people in general. Aboriginal cultures have a rich history in this province and I am proud that my family and I share in that."

On Monday, Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones called for a public apology from Russell.

"There's always been a common respect for each other's culture, for the place in which we live, and even though there's often going to be different political opinions, there's going to be different perspectives when it comes to development," Jones told reporters in St. John's. 

"But certainly Keith Russell showed absolute disdain and disrespect for the people of Labrador in the comments that he made last week."

'Mumbo jumbo' comment made during radio interview

Russell, whose district includes Muskrat Falls, made the remarks last Thursday, in an interview on CBC's Labrador Morning.

He went on to say that he doesn't buy into talk of "Mother Earth" and spirits running through sacred waters, instead stressing that Muskrat Falls is a key resource.

Since then, Premier Kathy Dunderdale has said the comments were unacceptable, and Jones said cabinet minister Nick McGrath has been calling aboriginal leaders to apologize for Russell's remarks. 

Russell, who is of aboriginal descent, served as a member in the Inuit government of Nunatsiavut before being elected to the house of assembly in 2011.